Student Stops Deportation Of Refugee By Refusing To Sit Down On Flight

For a lot of us, our activism starts and stops at retweeting news stories about Manus Island and attending the occasional rally – direct action is hard and sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot that you personally can do. Swedish student Elin Ersson is a perfect example of taking matters into your own hands and getting shit done.

Ersson managed to single-handedly stop the deportation of a 52-year-old man to Afghanistan by buying a ticket for the flight he was on and refusing to sit down unless he was taken off the plane, meaning that the flight was unable to take off. The flight from Gothenburg to Turkey was connecting to another flight that would take the man to Afghanistan.

Ersson broadcast the whole thing as a 14-minute Facebook Live video, which showed a mixture of support and criticism from fellow passengers as flight staff attempted to take her phone off her and get her off the plane. Speaking in English in the video, Ersson told a steward “I am doing what I can to save a person’s life. As long as a person is standing up the pilot cannot take off. 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.

According to The Guardian, airport staff declined to use force to remove Ersson from the plane and the man and three accompanying security staff ultimately left the plane, to applause from the passengers of the flight.

According to Deutsche Welle, Swedish authorities have said that refusing to carry out the orders of a pilot can carry penalties of fines and up to six months in jail.

In 2017 it was reported that German pilots were refusing to fly services deporting refugees.