Who Is Elin Ersson? Student Who Stopped Deportation Flight May Face Jail

A Swedish student activist has blocked the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker by refusing to sit down until he was removed from a plane that was preparing to take off.

Elin Ersson bought a ticket for the journey from Gothenburg to Istanbul after learning that the asylum seeker would be deported on the flight. Live-streaming her protest, Ersson refused requests from stewards to sit down and ignored abuse from fellow passengers until the man was taken back to the terminal.

The video showed Ersson, who the Guardian reports is a student at Gothenburg University, telling passengers, "I don't want a man's life to be taken away just because you don't want to miss your flight." As she hold back tears, she adds, "I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane." The video had been viewed more than 3 million times as of Wednesday morning.

Replying to a steward who asked Ersson to stop filming and sit down, the student explained, "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."

One passenger attempted to grab Errson's phone in frustration, to which the student asked, "What is more important, a life, or your time?…I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan. I am trying to change my country's rules, I don't like them. It is not right to send people to hell."

Other travelers were more sympathetic, and broke into applause when the asylum seeker was removed from the aircraft, followed by Ersson. According to Deutsche Welle, the man will face deportation at a later date. Ersson may now face a fine or jail time for her protest. Any passengers who refuse to obey a pilot's orders while on board a plane could be jailed for up to six months in jail, the agency said.

Sweden is gearing up for a September election, in which asylum and immigration policy will be a key battleground. The far-right Sweden Democrats party is polling strongly based on its staunch opposition to immigration. The incumbent Social Democrats government is pushing for increased deportations to bolster its own immigration credentials.

The number of people seeking asylum last year was 25,666, significantly down from the 2015 peak in applications when 163,000 applied for asylum status. The reduction is due to fewer migrants arriving in Europe generally alongside government efforts to make it harder to apply.