Mehran Karimi Nasseri was an Iranian immigrant who stayed in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris from August 1988 until July 2006. Sir Alfred Mehran (the comma isn’t a typo), Mehran’s narrative is unique and compelling enough that Steven Spielberg developed a smash film based on his experiences – remember ‘The Terminal’? He spent nearly two decades at Terminal 1 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport because he was not permitted to leave the airport by the authorities. He had misplaced his passport and other documents on his route to London from Paris, and was thus unable to enter the country. As a result, he returned to Paris, but because he lacked legal paperwork, he was detained by officials as soon as he arrived. He was released, though, because he had entered Paris legally, but he had nowhere to go. He had no choice except to stay in the departure lounge at Terminal 1 of the airport, which he did. From that point forward, he was known as the man without a country, claimed by no one.
Childhood and Adolescence
Nasseri was born in Masjed Soleiman, Iran, in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company colony in 1942. His mother was a Scottish nurse, while his father worked for the corporation as an Iranian physician.
He relocated to the United Kingdom in 1973 to study Yugoslav at the ‘University of Bradford.’ He returned to Iran after finishing his study, where he learned of the uprisings against Mohammad Reza Shah.
He made the decision to take part in the revolution. He was eventually exiled from Iran in 1977 as a result of his political ideas and protests.
He was finally awarded refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Belgium after a protracted struggle.
He was granted the ability to live and travel throughout Europe, and he chose to settle in the United Kingdom. In 1986, he came to the United Kingdom, and in 1988, he settled in London.
Upside down life by a misplaced suitcase
Nasseri’s suitcase was taken while he was still in Paris, which was an unfortunate turn of events. His passport, as well as other legal paperwork, were in his suitcase.
Despite the fact that he had misplaced his papers, he traveled to London in the hopes that the authorities would listen to his plea and assist him in finding a solution. But nothing like what happened at London’s Heathrow Airport.
He was sent back to Paris because he lacked the necessary documents. When he arrived at the Paris airport, he was confronted with an unusual situation.
He was detained because he lacked identification. The silver lining was that he was released because he had traveled to Paris on legal terms. It was assumed that he had no choice but to stay at the airport.
In 1992, a human rights lawyer, Christian Bourget, took up his case, but the court decided that he would not be able to enter Paris until he had his documents. He cannot be ordered to leave the terminal or expelled from the airport, according to the same court.
The departure lounge of Terminal 1 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, was the start of his becoming an urban legend.
Being a resident of the airport
Nasseri was stuck at the airport on August 26, 1988, and stayed there for the following 17 years.
He had a regimen that involved getting up at 5.30 a.m. and going to the restroom before the passengers arrived. He brushed his teeth and trimmed his beard with travel kits.
He was adopted by the airport, which provided him with food and meal vouchers. He had his own table and chair where he read his favorite books while watching the passengers move, planes fly, and days pass by.
He would also strike up conversations with onlookers and airport employees. He used to wash his clothes in the washroom late at night.
Nasseri was always soft-spoken and took care of his personal cleanliness, even after spending so many years living at the airport. He often declined money and clothing provided to him by strangers in order to maintain his dignity.
The Saga Has Come to an End
Nasseri was allowed to stay at the airport by the court in 1992, but he had trouble getting the Belgian refugee officials to mail Nasseri’s documents. They requested that Nasseri personally present himself to them in order to ensure that he is the same person.
Nasseri was unable to show to the Belgian government that he was the same individual who had been given political asylum since, under Belgian law, a refugee who leaves the country willingly is not allowed to return.
The Belgian authorities consented to provide him with his original documents in 1995, but only on the condition that he live in Belgium under the supervision and direction of a social worker. Nasseri opted not to pursue their proposition any further and remained to live at the airport.
It wasn’t until 1999 that he was given permission not only to leave the airport but also to travel freely throughout Europe. The only problem was that he refused to go!
His justification was that his name was listed in the document as an Iranian. He insisted on it being British!
The airport’s medical doctor stated that he was afraid to leave the bubble because such a drastic adjustment after a decade of living in an abnormal condition cannot be easy for anyone.
His Personal Experiences
Nasseri was hospitalized in 2006-2007 and cared for by the French Red Cross at the airport. He was relocated to a charity center in Paris, where he has remained since.
‘The Terminal,’ a 2004 movie, was based on his true life. The production company DreamWorks reportedly gave him $250,000 to obtain the rights to his life tale.
His narrative was also the inspiration for the 1994 French film ‘Tombés du Ciel,’ which was also released around the world under the title ‘Lost in Transit.’
In 2004, he wrote his memoirs, ‘The Terminal Man.’ It was co-authored by Andrew Donkin, a British author, and earned good reviews from some of the world’s most prestigious newspapers and magazines, including the ‘Sunday Times’ in the United Kingdom.
A few documentaries based on Nasseri’s life include ‘Waiting for Godot at De Gaulle’ (2000), ‘Here to Where mockumentary’ (2001), and ‘Sir Alfred of Charles De Gaulle Airport (2001).
Many short stories based on his life have also appeared in publications such as GQ. ‘Flight,’ a contemporary opera that received the Helpmann Award at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 2006, was inspired by his experience.
Estimated Net worth
At the present, his total net worth is estimated to be over $221,7 million.