Refugee Air aims to fly people safely to asylum in Sweden

2:38 min

According to the UNHCR, almost 3,000 people have drowned this year trying to get across the Mediterranean Sea to seek asylum in Europe. Now, two Swedes have started an initiative called Refugee Air, which would offer asylum-seekers a safer passage to Sweden, by allowing them to fly here. 

Two entrepreneurs with a background in cosmetics and also care are behind the initiative for Refugee Air, which started as an idea on social media just a week ago. Already, the group, which uses the hashtag #LETTHEMFLY, has over a thousand followers on Facebook.

Emad Zand, one of the entrepreneurs behind the idea, told Swedish Television News that the whole thing started when he saw the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi.

"He died on the way from a hell to a safe Europe. I looked at this picture and saw the little child and thought that he looked just like I did when I was three-years-old. It could have been me," says Zand.

Refugee Air plans to either charter airplanes or work with existing airlines to safely transport refugees from camps around Syria to Europe.

Susanne Najafi, co-initiator of the idea, says they want to show politicians and companies that this is possible.

"Actually, this should be an initiative from all the airlines," she says.

Refugee Air's website explains that one of the reasons why so many refugees are forced to take dangerous journeys to come to Europe has to do with something called "Carriers Liability", an EU directive that makes airlines, for example, liable for all costs related to passengers who ultimately don't get granted asylum at their destination in the EU.

But Najafi claims that this can be solved if the passengers on the flight list have already been given refugee status by the UN, or organizations. She adds that even if rules are broken, the penalty incurred would be a financial one, and that perhaps Refugee Air can create some type of insurance to cover those costs.

Najafi and Zand say that choosing which refugees would get to fly on Refugee Air would have to be a task for local organizations on the ground. Tickets would cost money, perhaps in the neighborhood of SEK 2,000, but not nearly as much as what smugglers are demanding. Najafi believes they can fly the first group of refugees to safety before Stockholm gets its first snowfall.