Iranian man who spent 18 years living in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and whose story served as a loose inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s movie “The Terminal” passed away on Saturday, according to officials.
According to a representative of the Paris airport authorities, Merhan Karimi Nasseri passed away following a heart attack in Terminal 2F of the airport about noon. He was treated by police and a medical crew, but they were unable to save him, the official claimed. The official was not allowed to have his or her name made public.
From 1988 to 2006, Nasseri resided in Terminal 1 of the airport, initially out of the law because he lacked residency documents and later by apparent choice.
He slept on a red plastic bench, made friends with airport officials, took showers in the staff bathrooms, wrote in his diary, read magazines, and observed passing passengers year after year.
He was given the nick of Lord Alfred by the staff, and he quickly gained notoriety among travellers.
In 1999, while sitting on a bench and smoking a pipe, he told The Associated Press that he would eventually leave the airport. He had long, thin hair, sunken eyes, and hollow cheeks and appeared frail. However, I have yet to receive a passport or transit visa.
Nasseri was born in 1945 to an Iranian father and a British mother in Soleiman, a region of Iran that was then governed by the British. In 1974, he left Iran to attend college in England. He claimed that upon his return, he was deported without a passport and imprisoned for participating in anti-Shah demonstrations.
He submitted applications for political asylum in many European nations. He received refugee credentials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Belgium, but he claimed his briefcase, which contained the refugee certificate, was stolen at a Paris railway station.
He was later detained by French police, but they were unable to transfer him anyplace since he lacked identification. In August 1988, he found himself at Charles de Gaulle and remained.
He spent years in a legal grey area due to more inept bureaucracy and stricter immigration restrictions in Europe.
He spoke of his amazement and anxiety upon receiving his refugee papers as well as his hesitation to leave the airport. He allegedly refused to sign them, remained there for several more years, was admitted to the hospital in 2006, and then resided in a shelter in Paris.
Those who made friends with him in the airport claimed that the years spent residing in the roomless area had a negative impact on his mental health. In the 1990s, the airport doctor expressed concern for his physical and emotional well-being and labelled him as “fossilised here.” He was compared to a prisoner who couldn’t “live on the outside” by a fellow ticket salesperson.
According to the airport employee, Nasseri had returned to residing at Charles de Gaulle in the weeks prior to his passing.
The 2004 Steven Spielberg film “The Terminal,” which was produced and directed by him and starred Tom Hanks, as well as the French film “Lost in Transit” and the opera “Flight,” were all partly based on Nasseri’s bizarre story.
Hanks portrays Viktor Navorski, a man who, upon arriving at JFK airport in New York from the imaginary Eastern European nation of Krakozhia, finds that all of his travel documents have been rendered invalid by an overnight political revolution. Viktor is thrown into the international lounge of the airport and told he must remain there until his status is resolved, which takes time as the disturbance in Krakozhia persists.
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