A 21-year-old college student and refugee volunteer managed to temporarily halt a man's deportation to Afghanistan on Monday, staging a protest on the asylum seeker's plane before it took off for Turkey from the Gothenburg airport in Sweden, the Guardian reports.
Elin Ersson refused to take her seat on the flight until the pilot gave the OK to remove the man, a 52-year-old asylum seeker, from the plane. She streamed her lone protest on Facebook Live, holding her ground while facing calls from both angry passengers and flight attendants to sit down and stop filming.
"What is more important, a life, or your time?" she responds to one angry passenger who appears to try to take her phone. "I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan.
Ersson told the Guardian that she bought a ticket for the flight the day it was bound to take off, having heard that a young Afghan asylum seeker was going to be deported on the plane. But before boarding, she discovered that it was an older man who was being sent back to Afghanistan in what a Swedish West Region police spokesman told CNN was a "forced deportation."
"There is a man who is going to get deported to Afghanistan, where he will most likely get killed. I'm not going to sit down until this person is off the plane," Ersson says.
"As long as a person is standing up, and other people stand up, the pilot cannot take off. All I want to do is stop the deportation and then I will comply with the rules here. This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime," she adds.
Over 14 long minutes and multiple heated altercations with the flight attendants, some of Ersson's fellow passengers reportedly opted to stand in support of her protest, with one passenger even translating her words into Turkish to others onboard, CNN reports. Finally, Ersson says through tears that the man's bags are being taken off the plane, and she gives him a hug as he's escorted out before she goes to meet airport security.
It's unclear if the man still faces deportation, but a Swedish West Region police spokesman told the Guardian that protests like Ersson's usually lead to authorities renting "a private plane to send them back to Afghanistan, or wherever." As for Errson, she could face a fine for her protest, should the airline choose to prosecute—all told, a relatively small punishment for her cause.
"I'm trying to change my country's rules," she says in the video. "I don't like them. It's not right to send people to hell."
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