Student plane protest highlights Sweden's asylum-seeker deportations

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By Alasdair Sandford
Student plane protest highlights Sweden's asylum-seeker deportations

A Swedish student has drawn widespread praise and criticism on social media after her single-handed aircraft protest, which went viral, succeeded in preventing an Afghan man from being deported. However, it was unclear on Wednesday whether she would face prosecution for her action or whether the man had been put on another plane to be expelled from Sweden.

What is certain is that Elin Ersson’s actions have put the spotlight on Sweden’s asylum laws, in the run-up to an election in September in which the issues of immigration and asylum are featuring strongly in the campaign.

The university student streamed Monday’s protest live on Facebook, and by Wednesday the video had registered well over two million views.


According to reports, after activists had learned that a 52-year-old Afghan man was to be deported to Kabul, via a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, Ersson also boarded the flight from Gothenburg.

She livestreamed her protest while standing up among the other seated passengers, explaining that she was refusing to sit down until the man being deported was taken off the plane. If he was flown back to Kabul, she said, he would be killed.

The video shows the student attracting support and applause but also hostility from other passengers. After a stand-off, the asylum seeker was taken off the plane.

Elin Ersson's actions prompted a torrent of praise as well as some condemnation on social media.

"How can this behavior be praised? To try to counteract expulsions in this way is to show absolute zero respect for Swedish laws and government decisions. Not to mention the disrespect of the cabin crew."

Sweden regards Afghanistan as a safe country and has a policy of sending back asylum seekers whose applications are rejected. The country has been dealing with a backlog of claims, although the number has fallen sharply.

However, the government has tightened entry conditions for refugees and sticks to its deportation policy. Support for the far-right Sweden Democrats is looking strong according to opinion polls, ahead of the September vote.

Credit: Facebook/Elin Ersson