Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived at Paris airport and inspired ‘The Terminal’, has died


The 77-year-old Iranian refugee whose ordeal inspired the 2004 film “The Terminal” died on Saturday inside Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, where he had previously lived for 18 years.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri died around noon local time of a heart attack, a Paris airport spokesman said on Sunday. “He was an iconic and charismatic character. There is a lot of emotion at the airport following his death.

Nasseri was loved by airport staff, who mourned his passing over the weekend, the spokesman said.

The 2004 Steven Spielberg film, set at JFK International Airport in New York, starred Tom Hanks as an Eastern European man stuck in the transit area after a coup in his fictional home country upsets his legal status. At the end, the protagonist leaves the airport, briefly fulfills his father’s mission and then returns home.

‘Terminal’: Cleared for takeoff

But Nasseri’s decades-long immigration struggles were far more complicated. Over the years, he’s provided conflicting details about his life, but in the end, there was no Hollywood ending.

Nasseri was exiled or fled political unrest in Iran in the 1970s and settled in Belgium for many years. He was reportedly determined to find his British mother and tried to travel elsewhere in Europe, before being repeatedly deported from several countries for not having the required immigration documents, according to the BBC.

In 1988, French authorities arrested him at Paris airport as he tried to cross without identity papers, which he said had been stolen. The authorities held him for several days in limbo in a transit area, then released him in one of Charles de Gaulle’s terminals.

Trapped by immigration, he quickly moved into makeshift accommodation at the airport and lived for many years in Terminal 1.

They dream of reaching America. Their forced service in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards locks them out.

He became the subject of news articles and at least two films. His airport home became a media sensation after the 2004 release of “The Terminal.” Dream works reportedly paid him several hundred thousand dollars for the rights to his story.

In 1999, France offered him a residence permit. But he continued to live inside the airport until 2006. After leaving the airport, he seemed to have trouble adjusting to life outside.

“The reality is that he had psychological issues,” the airport spokesman said. “He was a homeless person who was being cared for by the airport community and doctors.”

The spokesman said Nasseri returned to the airport’s Terminal 2F in mid-September, after leaving a nursing home where he was staying.

“Many people went to great lengths to have him hospitalized and placed in a retirement home suitable for his needs,” the spokesperson said.

Other refugees have found themselves in similar situations, although none for so long.

In 2018, a Syrian man lived in a Malaysian airport for seven months before Canada took him in. He was caught without legal accommodation when he could not return home to his war-torn country.

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