Swedish student activist Elin Ersson disobeyed a key in-flight safety rule — that all passengers must be seated — to delay the deportation of a 52-year-old Afghan man.
Ersson was protesting Swedish deportation policy with a group of 25 activists before she boarded the plane. For 14-minutes, passengers and flight personnel could be heard urging Ersson to sit down and switch off her phone. Some passengers berated her, saying she was “frightening” and “upsetting” other passengers.
“It’s not right to send people to hell,” Ersson said in response.
Ersson — a student at Göteborgs universitet — began a live Facebook feed where she explained, in English, that one of the passengers was going to be deported.
In the 24 hours since her act of civil disobedience, the Facebook video has been viewed 1.9-million times.
According to The Guardian, Ersson bought a ticket when she and other asylum activists learnt that an Afghan asylum seeker who was going to be deported, was aboard the flight.
“This person is going to be deported to Afghanistan where there is war, and he is going to be killed. I am not going to sit down until this person is let off the plane. He is going to be killed if he is not let off the plane,” Ersson says in the video.
Ersson added that once the man was let off the flight, she would comply with the flight attendants and pilots’ demands. The man, who is yet to be identified by Swedish authorities and the activist group Ersson represents, was removed from the flight. Ersson was also removed from the flight shortly afterwards.
Other passengers echoed their support for Ersson who refused to sit down and switch off her phone. Ersson argued that she was not acting illegally.
Ersson may have delayed the deportation of the Afghan man, but now she faces the possibility of fines or six months in jail for disobeying the pilot’s orders while on board the plane, Deutsche Welle reported.
The flight from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Istanbul, Turkey, was delayed for two hours, Swedavia — the company that operates the airport — said in a statement.
The man was going to transfer to a flight destined for Afghanistan once he arrived in Istanbul, The Washington Post reported.
Sweden, The Guardian reported, relaxed its deportation policy to Afghanistan following two incidents in January this year, where the Taliban killed 22 people when it attacked a hotel in Kabul and a suicide-attack killed more than a 100 people in the same city.
Sweden is expecting tens of thousands of deportation cases, The Guardian noted, adding that Sweden is still processing asylum applications from 2015 after 163 000 people claimed asylum.