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Swedish activist who forced flight to be cancelled to stop Afghan being deported wants to act again

25 Jul 2018 Daily Mail Online

A student activist who prevented a plane from taking off to stop an Afghani man from being deported has said she wants to stop all legal returns to the country.Elin Ersson, 22, purchased a ticket from Gothenburg to Istanbul to stop a man being sent back from Sweden, by disrupting the flight.Elin broadcast her protest live on Facebook in which she refused to sit down on Tuesday - recording disgruntled passengers and airline staff ordering her to take her seat. Speaking to The Guardian after the footage, which showed she was eventually backed by fellow passengers, she said: 'I was so caught in the moment that I didn't really realise that everyone was looking at me.'My focus was all on stopping a deportation to Afghanistan.'Eventually Miss Ersson, the Afghani man and his assigned security were removed from the flight.However, Miss Ersson revealed the man she was trying to save was not on the plane - instead, a 50-year-old man was being deported.The student who works with refugees believes the man she attempted to keep in Sweden was taken back to his war-torn country of origin via Stockholm.But his family has had no news on his whereabouts.She said: '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 says in a text the next day. 'My ultimate goal is to end deportations to Afghanistan.' 

In an act of civil disobedience, the student took out her phone and streamed a 14-minute video where she walked about the plane explaining the man 'will most likely get killed' if he's deportedOriginally, her plan was to stop him being returned on the plane she got a seat on, before he would be taken to change flights and to fly to Kabul.  The footage, now viewed by millions of people, shows cabin crew and other passengers asking her to sit down, which she insists she will do as soon as the man is let go.At one point, a disgruntled fellow passenger tries to seize her phone, but she asks him: 'What is more important, a life, or your time?'  '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.' 





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Eventually the 50-year-old man, not the girl's original target, is let off the plane and his deportation is prevented. Swedavia, which runs Landvetter airport where the protest took place, confirmed that an Afghan asylum seeker, three security personnel and Elin Ersson all left the plane.However, Swedish authorities have since said the Afghan man will still be deported, although a date has not been set. They also claim the activist could face up to six months in prison for refusing to obey police orders.

Elin Ersson, 22, a student at Gotheburg University, kept the Turkish airlines flight from Gotenborg in Sweden to Istanbul grounded until the 52-year-old Afghan man, who was due to be deported, was escorted off the plane

Swedish authorities claim the activist could face up to six months in prison for refusing to obey police ordersHowever, by the end of the clip some other passengers have joined her protest and many applaud when the man is led off the plane. In 2015 alone 163,000 refugees travelled to Sweden for refuge - 63,000 registered as unacompanied minors.Trainee social worker, and refugee volunteer Miss Ersson said she could not stand the thought of another person being returned 'to be killed'.  She said to The Guardian: 'People there are not sure of any safety,' says Ersson. '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.' Eventually, people on the plane took her side and Miss Ersson became emotional.First, a man stood up behind her and said he supported her - before an entire football team at the back of the plane did the same thing.She said: 'It felt good, when the Turkish guy started talking to me and making sure that I knew I wasn't alone.'Some Twitter users have even branded her a 'hero'.One person said: 'Thank you for your stand, for your courage, compassion and hope'.Another added: 'This is what a superhero looks like'.

The response on Twitter has been mostly positive, and the video which Ersson livestreamed on Facebook has racked up 2 million viewsErrson's protest highlights the domestic opposition to the Swedish government's tough line on asylum. With the far-right Sweden Democrats, who are opposed to immigration and asylum, currently doing well in the polls, the government has felt it has be tough on those issues before September's elections.In January, Kabul was hit by a Taliban terrorist attack which killed more than 100 people and wounded at least 235. At the time, Sweden put a temporary brake on deportations to Afghanistan but these have since resumed and the government considers the country safe for failed asylum seekers. Sweden has now toughened its refugee acceptance conditions and asylum applications have correspondingly dropped. Errson is one of many Swedes who feel that their government's approach has been too harsh. 'I am trying to change my country's rules, I don't like them,' she says.'It is not right to send people to hell.'

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