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Student prevents Afghan man’s deportation by refusing to sit down inside plane

/ 04:40 PM July 26, 2018

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One 21-year-old Swedish student activist tried to stop the deportation of an Afghan man by protesting inside a plane which was about to take off. Apparently, planes cannot take off unless all air passengers have taken their seats and put their safety belts on; so as a means to interrupt the Afghan man’s deportation, Elin Ersson refused to sit down.

The plane was bound for Istanbul from Gothenburg, Sweden. The Afghan man was scheduled to be sent to Istanbul, from where authorities would eventually decide about his deportation. Ersson bought a ticket for the same flight after learning about the man’s deportation, reports The Washington Post yesterday, July 25.

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Ersson went live on Facebook last July 23 and showed to viewers the scene of her standing in the middle of the plane aisle. People behind her can be heard saying, “We wanna go, sit down!” but Ersson refused.

Ersson studies social work at the University of Gothenburg, and in an act of civil disobedience, spoke to her phone camera about her protest: “So I’m at the airport and the people in here were trying to take away my phone. I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane.”

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Her Facebook video lasted around 15 minutes and has since been viewed by over three million people worldwide. At one point, what seemed to be a flight attendant told her to turn off her phone.

“I’m not filming you,” Ersson protested.

“You have to turn it off…” the flight attendant said. “You have to take your seat and turn it off or you can leave the aircraft.”

“I’m doing what I can to save a person’s life,” Ersson continued to say to her viewers. “This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime… As long as I’m standing up and hopefully other people stand up then the pilot can’t take off.”

In the video, Ersson was also heard telling others, “I want him off the plane because he’s not safe in Afghanistan… I’m very sorry that a man is going to die and you are more worried about missing your flight.”

By the end of the video, Ersson was told by a flight attendant that she and the Afghan man won’t be flying. According to Swedavia Airports, as per report, the deportee was soon escorted out of the plane by the authorities, whereas Ersson left on her own volition.

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In her Facebook post last July 23, Ersson shared that the man’s deportation was interrupted, but also said that she doesn’t know anymore about what would happen next.

“The deportation was interrupted,” wrote Ersson. “I don’t know any more than that, shutting off my cell phone now.”

Image: Facebook/Elin Ersson

European Union countries have been tightening their borders in face of a global refugee crisis. Afghans are said to be among the largest groups of asylum seekers. The report stated that for the past year, based on Eurostat figures, E.U. countries received around 37,000 first-time asylum applications from Afghanistan. Cody Cepeda/JB

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TAGS: activism, Afghanistan, Deportation, immigration crisis, Kabul, refugee, Sweden, University of Gothenburg
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