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How a Swedish student’s protest against forced deportation could backfire

25 July 2018

3:49 PM

25 July 2018

3:49 PM

If the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party, triumphs in the country’s general election on 9 September it won’t be thanks to Vladimir Putin, no matter how many Swedes fear his drones are trying to swamp them with internet propaganda. It will be Elin Ersson wot swung it for them – along with the police and authorities at Gothenburg Airport. Ms Ersson filmed herself refusing to sit down on a Turkey-bound plane until a failed asylum-seeker, who was being deported to Afghanistan, was removed. He duly was.   

Students have been doing this sort of thing for decades, of course – albeit without the benefit of live-streaming on social media, but just why did the airport authorities make it so easy for Ms Ersson? There is now some talk of her being prosecuted, even jailed – something which would be over the top, achieve nothing but generate sympathy and is highly unlikely to happen. On the other hand, she could quite easily have been removed by the simple expedient of having two polite security guards or police officers lift her up by the arms and carry her off, allowing the plane to take off as planned.

By failing to do this, and granting her demands, Gothenburg’s airport authorities have sent out a very loud ‘welcome’ to other protestors. If it is really that easy for a moon-faced student on social media to have an asylum-seeker removed from a plane, how attractive it must be to others to head for the nearest Swedish airport and stage their own stand-up protest? Angry that your IKEA shelves fell apart after three months? No problem – just live-stream yourself on a plane on the tarmac at Gothenburg Airport and you’ll get your money back, no problem. More worryingly, what message does it send to terrorists and hijackers about security presence at the airport?  

You have to admire Ms Ersson’s brazenness. But the ease with which she got her way won’t, I suspect, go down well with a good many Swedish voters who were relieved that finally – it seemed – a tough stance was being taken on migration. Sweden’s naivety in putting out the welcome mat to all and sundry has resulted in 400,000 asylum applications in the past five years – one for every 25 of the existing population. Only belatedly has the social democrat-led government realised that it isn’t easy for a small country to integrate such numbers of migrants, especially when there is such a heavy bias towards men: in 2016 Sweden received 91,146 male migrants and 71,859 female ones.

Uncontrolled migration has resulted in what many Swedes regard as localised breakdowns in law and order – which included a remarkable 35 grenade attacks in 2016, somewhat a novelty in Scandinavia. Finally, two years ago the government responded to growing anger at the uncontrolled nature of migration. Tougher rules were put in place regarding asylum applications and repatriations of failed asylum-seekers speeded up (although there remains a huge backlog in applications).

And then comes along Ms Ersson and throws a spanner in the system by refusing to sit down on a plane. “I am trying to change my country’s rules, I don’t like them,” she bleated. “It is not right to send people to hell.” Her future career options will now presumably exclude any PR role for the Afghan government – the last thing you want when you are trying to reconstruct your country after 40 years of war and unrest is for a social media star likening it to the underworld.  

But as regards the future of Sweden, the only winners that I can see from this will be the Sweden Democrats, who have promised to tighten immigration law further, and who are already trailing the Social Democrats by only a narrow margin. Maybe, if they do reach office, they will reward Ms Ersson with a peace prize.


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