Mehran Karimi Nasseri: Exiled Iranian Who Inspired Spielberg’s ‘The Terminal’ Passes Away At Paris Airport


Paris: Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian exile whose time spent at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport inspired filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s movie ‘The Terminal’, passed away of a heart attack in Terminal 2F of the same airport.

Police and a medical team treated him but were not able to save him.

For the unversed, The Terminal is a 2004 American comedy-drama which was about an Eastern European man who is stuck in New York’s John F Kennedy Airport when he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time is unable to return to his native country due to a military coup. The film, was, in parts, inspired by the 18-year stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in Terminal 1 of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Aiport, France, from 1988 to 2006.

Nasseri lived in the airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 until 2006, first in legal limbo because he lacked residency papers and later by apparent choice. He was eventually given the right to live in France, but he ended up returning to the airport a few weeks ago.

Year in and year out, he slept on a red plastic bench, making friends with airport workers, showering in staff facilities, writing in his diary, reading magazines and surveying passing travelers.

Staff nicknamed him Lord Alfred, and he became a mini-celebrity among passengers.

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 imprisoned for protesting against the shah and expelled without a passport.

He flew to Europe in search of his mother. He then went to live in Belgium after getting expelled from countries including the UK, the Netherlands and Germany for not having the correct immigration documents. He then went to France, where he made the airport’s 2F Terminal his home.

He applied for political asylum in several countries in Europe. The UNHCR in Belgium gave him refugee credentials, but he said his briefcase containing the refugee certificate was stolen in a Paris train station.

French police later arrested him, but couldn’t deport him anywhere because he had no official documents. He ended up at Charles de Gaulle in August 1988 and stayed.

Further bureaucratic bungling and increasingly strict European immigration laws kept him in a legal no-man’s land for years.



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