Swedes were “screaming and crying” as they tried to prevent around a dozen Afghans from being flown back to their homeland.
Activists argued the men are model students fluent in Swedish and lacking any criminal tendencies. They warned the Afghans would be forced into either the Taliban or sex slavery if made to return to their homelands.
A number of the migrants, who authorities judged to have no right to remain in the Nordic nation, were being deported for having lied about their age.
But Kinna Skoglund, spokesman for We Can’t Bear It, a group which demands the government grant amnesty to unaccompanied minors, said she has no faith in the migration board’s age assessment methods.
“There could be 15-year-olds sitting among the people who are about to be deported,” she said. “We want young people to be supported — not deported in silence to their certain death.”
Around 60 Swedes gathered on Tuesday outside the Kållered building, where the Afghans were being kept, to try and prevent authorities from transporting them to the airport where their flight was due to leave at just before 10 p.m.
According to the Gothenburg Post, protesters began to “riot” when a blue bus arrived for the migrants at around 6:30 p.m. and tried to rush through police fencing in an attempt to stop the bus.
Some of the campaigners donned blankets “to show their solidarity” with the Afghans, and protesters were “screaming and crying as they tried to comfort each other”, the newspaper reported.
Protesters then headed to Landvetter airport, where the men were due to be flown back to Afghanistan. Ms. Skoglund said authorities were making a mistake in choosing to deport them, insisting that the migrants “have the potential to be a great asset” to Sweden.
A spokesman for We Can’t Bear It told reporters the deportees have been in Sweden between one and three years:
They all speak Swedish and write the language fluently, so it is no problem to communicate with them, the spokeswoman said. All these young people are so incredibly ambitious. They were doing well in school. They entered the voluntary sector as quickly as they could. The child refugees with whom we have been in contact don’t have any criminal tendencies, aside from a very small number. On the contrary, they are model students.
A grim future awaits them in Afghanistan, Skoglund added.
“Most likely they will just flee to Sweden again,” she said. She warned the alternative was that “they may join the Taliban, who recruit boys to fight for them in exchange for food and shelter”.
She suggested that another alternative would be for the men “to prostitute themselves”, telling reporters it’s become common for older men to recruit teenage boys into “sex slavery”.
Activists at the airport argued the deportation would “trigger anxiety attacks” amongst unaccompanied minors living in Sweden, and could even inspire suicides.
“These girls and boys will be thinking ‘next time, it could be me who’s put on a plane’,” said Ms. Skoglund, reporting that an ambulance had to be called to the Kållered migrant repository on Monday when one of the men “collapsed” from a “panic attack” and “couldn’t breathe”.
But press officer Pierre Karatzian denied the incident, stating that the Migration Board “has heard of no such cases”.
As the plane set off from Landvetter, protesters sang “Last Night I Dreamed” as they held a candlelit vigil.
“Today we cry but tomorrow we will continue to fight,” Ms. Skoglund declared.
— Vi står inte ut (@vistarinteut) March 29, 2017
— Vi står inte ut (@vistarinteut) March 28, 2017
På Landvetter nu för att protestera. Hemskt! Snart skickar Sverige barn i döden💔 pic.twitter.com/CQh4pWVnRJ
— jenny antonsson (@frokenjenant) March 28, 2017