Iranian who lived in Paris airport for 18 years and inspired ‘The Terminal’ dies

An Iranian man who inspired American film director Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Terminal’ died on Saturday. Merhan Karimi Nasseri lived for 18 years at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. He died after a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F around midday, an official with the Paris airport authority told the international news agency AP. Police and a medical team treated him but could not save him.

Believed to have been born in 1945, Nasseri lived in the airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 until 2006. He was stuck at the airport because he lacked residency papers. However, later he remained there by choice.

AFP reported that Nasseri was eventually given the right to live in France, but he returned to the airport a few weeks ago. He had been living in the airport again in recent weeks.

Reports say that Nasseri landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris in 1988 after being denied entry into the UK because his passport and refugee certificate issued by the United Nations had been stolen.

The French authorities did not allow him to leave the airport, leaving him with no option but to stay there.

Nasseri’s story began after he flew to Europe in search of his Scottish mother. However, he was expelled from countries like the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany for lack of correct immigration documents. Having been denied entry into these countries, Nasseri spent some years in Belgium. He then went to France, where he made the airport terminal his home, BBC reported.

At Terminal One, where he stayed, he always kept his luggage by his side, and spent time reading, writing his diary, and studying economics. He received food and newspapers from airport employees.

Nasseri’s story inspired Tom Hanks’ The Terminal and the French film ‘Tombés du ciel’ starring Jean Rochefort. In ‘The Terminal’, Hanks, whose country had just plunged into crisis after a coup, stays in New York’s John F Kennedy airport after being denied entry to the United States (US).