An Iranian exile who was stuck for more than a decade in a French airport, inspiring a Steven Spielberg film, died of natural causes just weeks after returning to the transport hub he long called home, has reported Agence France-Presse.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who claimed to have left Iran in 1977, died in terminal 2F of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Saturday, the news agency said quoting an airport official. He was 77 years old.
Nasseri, who was granted refugee status in Belgium, traveled across Europe in November 1988 in an unsuccessful attempt to find his mother. Lacking a visa, he was refused entry to the UK, Germany and the Netherlands before arriving at Paris airport, where he was detained and released in the Terminal 1 building.
He stayed there with just his suitcase, living off the food given to him by airport workers and calling himself “Mister Alfred.” A French court ruled in 1992 that Nasseri could not be forcibly removed from the airport, but he also could not be allowed to enter the country. He was granted residency as a refugee in 1999, but by then he no longer wanted to leave the airport.
Nasseri’s story later caught the attention of Spielberg, who offered him $250,000 for the rights to make it into a movie. The 2004 movie, ‘The terminal,’ starred Tom Hanks as an Eastern European man who finds himself stranded in an American airport after being refused entry and his own country being taken over during a ‘a coup.
That same year, Nasseri’s autobiography – co-written by British author Andrew Dorkin – was published. He finally left the airport in 2006, when he was hospitalized. He returned a few weeks ago, having spent most of his Hollywood money, the airport official told AFP. Several thousand euros were found in his possession.