STOCKHOLM: A video taken by a Swedish student who filmed herself stopping the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker onboard a plane has gone viral.
In a video streamed live on her Facebook account, Elin Ersson, who is reading sociology at Gothenburg University, is seen refusing to sit down and turning off her phone onboard a Turkish Airlines flight heading to Istanbul.
“A person is going to get deported to Afghanistan where there is war and he’s going to get killed,” the 21-year-old tells disgruntled crew members.
The incident took place on Monday, Swedish airport authorities said.
“I am not going to sit down until this person is off the plane,” Ersson says as her cheeks turn red, adding “people are trying to take my phone away”.
Her protest sparked complaints from some passengers.
A man’s voice with a British accent can be heard shouting “Sit down! We want to go sit down!”
“I’m very sorry that a man is going to die and you are more worried about missing your flight,” she tells a Turkish airlines crew member who responds “yes, you’re right”. Other passengers offered support.
Ersson said members of a football team at the back of the plane stood up.
And another passenger is heard saying in Turkish “let him off the plane or we all will go”.
‘Not right to send people to hell’
A spokesman at the Swedish Prison and Probation Service confirmed the pilot eventually decided that Ersson, the Afghan asylum seeker in his 50s and the escorts accompanying him had to leave the plane, thereby halting the planned deportation. Ulf Mossberg told AFP on Wednesday that the pilot, who has a legal right to decide what happens on board the aircraft, “made the decision due to order and security”.
Sweden has registered around 400,000 asylum applications since 2012 — with more than one in eight coming from Afghanistan, where the capital Kabul has recently been hit by a spate of deadly attacks.
But the Swedish Migration Agency still deems the nation safe enough for rejected asylum seekers to be sent back and the Afghan is likely to be deported at a later date.
“I’m trying to change my country’s rules I don’t like them. It’s not right to send people to hell,” Ersson said with tears running down her cheeks.
Her action was praised on social media. “Humanity still exists! She made my morning” Samira Hamidi, a campaigner for Amnesty International tweeted on Wednesday.
“This is pure courage. I have a new hero,” Tayab Ali, a London-based lawyer tweeted.
“We are in a very critical situation in Europe, we are witnessing a serious backlash against anything that is seen as foreign,” Hameed Hakimi, a research associate at Chatham House, a London-based think-tank, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Hakimi said Ersson’s intervention was unlikely to change the fate of the Afghan man in the video, yet such acts were important to grab the attention of governments.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018