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Student refuses to sit to save an asylum seeker on the plane

Elin Ersson.

Her story came up on my social media feed last week. Major news networks picked up her live-stream video protest and blasted it across cyberspace. By now it has travelled the globe and been viewed by thousands of people.

She is a student at Gothenburg University, Sweden. On Monday, 23 July she boarded a plane to Turkey. She was on a mission to save someone that day.

Unknown to passengers, there was a man, an asylum seeker, on that plane who was about to be deported back to Afghanistan.

According to the story in The Guardian, Elin boarded the plane and refused to sit while this man was on the plane. She began live-streaming her protest as stewards repeatedly told her to sit down so the plane could take off.

Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 8.03.08 pm

As the flight is delayed she is met with disgruntled passengers. Some are hostile.

“I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight,” she says. “I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.”

There is one man who tries to snatch the phone away from her.

“What is more important, a life, or your time?” she challenges him.

“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.”

Sweden briefly stopped deportations to Afghanistan after the Taliban shot and killed 22 people at Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel and sent an ambulance, packed full of bombs, to explode in that city killing more than a 100 people and injuring at least 235 earlier this year. But it seems the Swedish Migration Board is standing by its decision to return asylum seekers to Afghanistan, stating the country is now safe.

As the stand off progresses, other passengers begin to understand why their flight is being delayed. Amid the frustration and anger, some passengers start standing up too. If you listen to her live-stream, there is a soccer team somewhere on the plane that also refuses to sit.

She handles the hostility. But is moved to tears when she hears a passenger offer his support, stating he is with her.

One young woman. Elin Ersson. On a plane full of angry people. Refusing to sit for the sake of another.

“I am doing what I can to save a person’s life,” she tells the steward.

“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.”

She is upset. She often struggles for composure. But she is there, standing, until the authorities come to take the man off the plane. He will still be deported. But not that day. Her actions that day gives him a temporary reprieve.

By the time the man leaves the plane, there are passengers who are applauding.

I have no idea about the system in place in Sweden. We have plenty of issues regarding people who have fled conflict and persecution seeking protection in Australia too.

But I can’t help admiring that young woman, who did her best to protect another human being last week.

Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression

Robert F. Kennedy, 1966

Featured image by Ernanette Carolino on Unsplash

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July 2018
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