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Swedish student's plane protest stops man's deportation 'to hell'

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Swedish student's plane protest stops man's deportation 'to hell'

David Crouch in Gothenburg 

 

ACSszfFauLdJNIv2n6uTtGHp2yVp7bzQIRSSZ4DgGuardian News

 

A lone student activist on board a plane at Gothenburg airport has prevented the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker from Sweden by refusing to sit down until the man was removed from the flight.

Her successful protest, footage of which spread rapidly across the internet, shines a spotlight on domestic opposition to Sweden’s tough asylum regime, at a time when immigration and asylum are topping the agenda of a general election campaign in which the far right is polling strongly.

“I hope that people start questioning how their country treats refugees,” Elin Ersson, 21, told the Guardian in an interview. “We need to start seeing the people whose lives our immigration [policies] are destroying.”

The social work student at Gothenburg University bought a ticket for the flight from Gothenburg to Turkey on Monday morning, after she and other asylum activists found out that a young Afghan was due to be deported on it. In fact he was not on the plane but activists discovered another Afghan man in his 50s was onboard for deportation.


Swedish plane protester Elin Ersson: ‘I knew I couldn't back down – I had to do what I could'
 

As she entered the plane, Ersson started to livestream her protest in English. The video received more than 4m hits on Tuesday.

Facing both sympathy and hostility from passengers, the footage shows Ersson struggling to keep her composure. “I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight,” she says. “I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.”

Repeatedly told by a steward to stop filming, Ersson says: “I am doing what I can to save a person’s life. As long as a person is standing 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.”

When an angry passenger, who appears to be English, tries to seize her phone, she tells him: “What is more important, a life, or your time? … I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan. I am trying to change my country’s rules, I don’t like them. It is not right to send people to hell.”

After a tense standoff, during which the airport authorities declined to use force to eject Ersson, passengers broke into applause when the asylum seeker was taken off the plane.

Ersson told the Guardian she had been volunteering with refugee groups for about a year.

“People [in Afghanistan] are not sure of any safety,” she said. “They don’t know if they’re going to live another day. As I’ve been working and meeting people from Afghanistan and heard their stories, I’ve been more and more in the belief that no one should be deported to Afghanistan because it’s not a safe place. The way that we are treating refugees right now, I think that we can do better, especially in a rich country like Sweden.”


As the country heads towards a general election in September, Sweden’s centre-left coalition government is keen to keep up expulsions of asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down. “If you get rejected, you have to go home – otherwise we will not have a proper migration system,” the prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said last year after an Uzbek asylum seeker whose claim had been rejected drove a truck into shoppers in Stockholm, killing five people.

After Taliban violence increased in January, the country briefly halted deportations to Afghanistan. But the Swedish migration board stands by its assessment that the country is a safe destination for asylum seekers whose claims have been turned down.

In its most recent assessment, the migration board said Taliban attacks had been aimed mainly at the military or foreigners, and violence against Afghan civilians was rare. As for a bomb in an ambulance in January that killed at least 95 and injured many more in Kabul, the board said it was “unclear whether the purpose was really to attack civilians”.

Tens of thousands of deportation cases are expected to be handed over to the police as the country continues to process a backlog of asylum applications, after 163,000 people claimed asylum in Sweden in 2015. Last year, the border police deported 12,500 people, while the rate of expulsions so far this year is slightly higher.

Normally deportations go peacefully, according to a spokesperson for the police in Sweden’s west region. But occasionally the process is disrupted by demonstrators such as Ersson or by asylum seekers themselves.

“You do it once or twice, and if it doesn’t work we rent a private plane to send them back to Afghanistan, or wherever,” the spokesperson said.

Ersson’s protest was a civil and not a criminal case, he said. Should the airline and passengers decide to prosecute, Ersson could face a substantial fine.

When the refugee crisis began to escalate 2015, Sweden made it much harder for refugees to get into the country and asylum applications fell sharply. In 2016 almost 29,000 people claimed asylum, followed by just under 26,000 last year. So far this year, asylum applications are running at about 1,500 a month.

The fates of the young man due to be deported on Monday, and the man who was on the plane, are unknown. A spokesperson for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service confirmed that the young man would be deported again, once transport was found. The Swedish border police in Kalmar, responsible for the attempted deportation, did not return calls from the Guardian.

Ersson believes the young man was taken to Stockholm and put on a flight there already.

“This is how deportations in Sweden work. The people involved know nothing and they are not allowed to reach out to their lawyers or family,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to end deportations to Afghanistan.”

 

A Note

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Afghan migrant whose deportation was thwarted by 'hero' Swedish student was actually sentenced for assault

 

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The Swedish student who was branded a “hero” and captured worldwide attention after she stopped the deportation of an Afghan migrant by refusing to sit down on a plane instead prevented the extradition of a man sentenced for assault and whose asylum application was rejected.

Elin Ersson, a student at Gothenburg University, was subjected to fawning media coverage over her stunt earlier this month when she refused to take her seat on the plane until the 52-year-old Afghan deportee was released. She was successful and authorities weren’t able to deport the man.

However, Swedish Police confirmed to Fox News that the man whose deportation Ersson prevented had received a prison sentence in Sweden for assault. The police spokesman declined to go into more details about the crime the migrant has committed. His asylum application was also rejected.

A representative for Ersson declined Fox News’ request for a comment.

One of the largest newspapers in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, reported last week as well that the man was sentenced for assault. The man will still eventually be deported, though the date remains unknown, the newspaper reported.

Despite lacking information about the man who was being deported, most media organizations jumped on the story, with the Washington Post calling Ersson’s stunt a “dramatic act of civil disobedience” while Newsweek magazine described the student as a “hero”.

CNN, meanwhile, spoke with Swedish authorities who confirmed that it was “forced deportation,” yet the outlet didn’t reveal why the man faced deportation.

The Swedish student live streamed the whole incident and it was viewed nearly 5 million times on Facebook alone. In the video, she’s heard saying “there is a man who is going to get deported to Afghanistan, where he will most likely get killed” and the she won’t “sit down until this person is off the plane.”

“I am doing what I can to save a person’s life,” she continues. “As long as a person is standing 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.”

An annoyed passenger tried to grab the phone from Ersson, saying she’s upsetting others. To which the student replied: “It's not my fault that he's getting deported. I'm trying to stop this.”

“I'm trying to change my country's rules. I don't like them. It's not right to send people to hell,” she added.

 

 

 

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Keep in mind we do not know the story of the assault and even so, being sent to a place he is likely to be killed or become part of the problem is not necessarily a wise move either.

I still am happy that this lady did this.  We do not always know the reasons for the deportations and in the USA they deport pretty much for being an illegal alien and they are looking to take away green cards and potentially revoke citizenship from those given citizenship so I am for passive resistance that helps even for a minute. 

Turning a blind eye by saying they must deserve it is not necessarily the wise take away from this.

I am all for sending criminals back to whence they came but we do not always know nor can trust they are truly criminals that warrant such a sentence.

I respect all opinions on this and all are welcome as in that we perhaps can learn more on perspective but for my personal view, I am all about cultural healing and life but I do agree with accountability.

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