A young student in Europe took immigration matters into her own hands this week. A viral video of a Swedish woman blocking a man's deportation to Afghanistan captured a tense situation aboard an airplane that was unable to take off as long as the activist remained standing. She was ultimately successful in her attempt to temporary halt his removal from the country, and the man was eventually escorted off the aircraft.
"I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane,” says the young woman, Elin Ersson in the video, which she streamed live to Facebook, "because he is most likely to get killed if he is on this plane when it goes up."
The Independent reports that the woman purchased a ticket for the flight after she and a group of other activists determined that someone on the plane was being deported to Afghanistan. The plane was flying from Gothenburg, Sweden to Istanbul, where final travel plans for the man were to be determined.
Originally, she and other activists believed that the Afghan deportee was a young man, however, the person in question was not on the plane, The Guardian reports. Instead, a man in his 50's, also scheduled to be deported to Afghanistan, was reportedly seated in the back of the cabin, and Ersson went through with her protest.
Ersson is 21 years old, and is currently a social work student at the University of Gothenburg. As for why she stopped the deportation, Ersson said it was because she believed Afghanistan was too dangerous to send asylum seekers back to.
"People there are not sure of any safety," Ersson told The Guardian. She continued:
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.
Though she delayed the flight for several hours before the man was ultimately removed, Ersson received a wash of praise from users on social media. "What an act of extraordinary courage and integrity," wrote one Twitter user.
"If ever you think one person can’t make a difference, then watch this!" wrote another user. "Huge respect to Elin Ersson, a student at Gothenburg university, for — literally — standing up for what she believes in. A true inspiration."
Ultimately, the man will likely be deported at a later day, the Times reports. But this is an outcome that Ersson said she was aware of, saying she believed the man in question was removed from the country the following day.
“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 told The Guardian. “My ultimate goal is to end deportations to Afghanistan.”
Many online praised Ersson for using her white privilege to help draw awareness to an unfair situation. Though the protest may have been unsuccessful in the longterm, she did manage to draw a lot of much-needed attention to a complicated, contentious topic.