An Iranian man who lived for 18 years in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and whose saga loosely inspired the Steven Spielberg movie “The terminalHe died Saturday at the airport he had long called home, authorities said.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri He died after a heart attack at the airport’s Terminal 2F around noon, according to an official with the Paris airport authority. Police and a medical team treated him but were unable to save him, the official said. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
Nasseri lived in Terminal 1 of the airport from 1988 to 2006first in a legal limbo for lack of residence papers and then by apparent choice.
The staff nicknamed him Lord Alfred
Year after year, he slept on a red plastic bench, befriended airport workers, showered in the staff quarters, wrote in his journal, read magazines, and surveyed passing travelers.
The staff nicknamed him Lord Alfred and he became a mini-celebrity among the passengers.
“Eventually, I’ll be leaving the airport,” he told The Associated Press in 1999, smoking a pipe on his bench, looking frail with long, thin hair, sunken eyes and sunken cheeks. “But I’m still waiting for a passport or a transit visa.”
Nasseri was born in 1945 in Soleiman, a part of Iran then under British jurisdiction, to an Iranian father and a British mother. He left Iran to study in England in 1974. When he returned, he said, he was jailed for protesting against the shah and expelled without a passport.
He requested political asylum in several European countries. UNHCR in Belgium gave her refugee credentials, but she said her briefcase containing the refugee certificate was stolen from a Paris train station.
Later, the French police arrested him, but could not deport him anywhere because he had no official documents. He ended up at Charles de Gaulle in August 1988 and stayed.
More bureaucratic bungling and increasingly strict European immigration laws kept him in a legal no man’s land for years.
When she finally received her refugee papers, she described her surprise and insecurity upon leaving the airport. He reportedly refused to sign them and ended up staying there for several more years until he was hospitalized in 2006 and then lived in a Paris shelter.
Nasseri had returned to live in Charles de Gaulle
Those who befriended him at the airport said years of living in the windowless space took a toll on his state of mind. The airport doctor in the 1990s worried about his physical and mental health, describing him as “here fossilized.” A box office friend compared him to a prisoner incapable of “living abroad.”
In the weeks before his death, Nasseri had returned to live at Charles de Gaulle, the airport official said.
Nasseri’s mind-bending story loosely inspired 2004’s “The Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks, as well as a French film, “Lost in Transit” and an opera called “Flight.”
In “The Terminal,” Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, a man who arrives at New York’s JFK airport from the fictional Eastern European country of Krakozhia, only to discover that an overnight political revolution has invalidated all his travel documents. Viktor is thrown into the airport’s international lounge and told that he must remain there until his condition is resolved, which drags on as the riots in Krakozhia continue.
No information was immediately available on the survivors.