Swedish student in dramatic protest over her country’s deportation laws

Aircraft passenger:
“It’s your country’s rules.”
21-year-old Elin Ersson:
“Yeah, I’m trying to change my country’s rules. I don’t like them.”

There are moments when despair can overtake us when we wonder where the world is headed. The emergence of neo-nationalism, islamophobia, homophobia, Brexit, a border wall in the USA, targeting some of the world’s most vulnerable people, trying, as our own ancestors have done, to escape poverty and oppression.

Then comes along an act by a young person that fills one with admiration and renewed hope for the future. It is a moment when the nobility of the human spirit shines forth as a young, vulnerable but determined student decides to stand up and oppose an entire system, without care for the consequences on herself. 

That’s what 21-year-old Elin Ersson did in her native Sweden. An Afghan asylum seeker was being deported and when the gravity of the situation struck the unlikely hero, she became a conscientious objector, facing down efforts to intimidate and threaten her. 

It is also a lesson on the positive power of internet technology as Ersson began to livestream her actions on Facebook so that her family and followers could watch her action and share it with the world. And that’s what has happened. The action of the student has now been shared millions of times and has appeared in news outlets across the globe, putting pressure on the Swedish Government, in the run-up to September elections, to rethink their tough stance on refugees and asylum seekers. 

Below we publish how La Croix International covered Ersson’s action. But you may also be interested in two very differing perspectives about how a German academic and a British teenager viewed the young woman’s action.

To read the views of Ben Simanowitz, a 17-year-old secondary student from London, please click here.

And to read the views of Prof. Dr. Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, a political scientist at the University of Bonn, please click here.

We encourage you to watch the following video and hope that you too will find inspiration and encouragement from the courage of this young Swedish woman:

The following is a report on her action by a staff report for La Croix International in Sweden:

A student on board a plane prevented the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker from Sweden by refusing to sit down and allow the aircraft to take off.

“I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane … In Afghanistan, there is a big war going on, and if he goes there, he will most likely be killed,” Elin Ersson, 21, said in English in a livestream on Facebook from Gothenburg.

In the video, a passenger can be heard telling her: “It’s your country’s rules.”

She responded: “Yeah, I’m trying to change my country’s rules. I don’t like them.”

Aviation safety rules do not allow for a commercial plane to take off without every passenger being seated and their seat belts fastened.

While some passengers and airline staff kept asking Ersson to stop filming and tried to take her phone, she received a standing ovation and much applause after officials approached her saying the asylum seeker would be let off the plane.

Ersson and the asylum seeker were eventually escorted off the plane by three security personnel.

Since being uploaded, the video has been viewed millions of times and praised across the internet.

The video highlights domestic opposition to Sweden’s tough asylum regime.

Sweden is heading to the polls for a general election in September and the center-left coalition government is keen to continue deporting asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down.

Ersson, a social work student at Gothenburg University bought a ticket for the flight from Gothenburg to Turkey after coming to know that a young Afghan was due to be deported on it.

However, that particular man was not on the plane, but another Afghan man in his 50s was onboard for deportation.