Mehran Karimi Nasser, better known as Sir Alfred, an Iranian refugee, went down in history after squatting for 18 years at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport between 1988 and 2006. His peculiar story even inspired Steven Spielberg to make the movie “The Terminal”, which was released in 2004. Two years ago, Berczeller documented his life and had released a documentary feature film called “Here to Where”.
“Alfred’s red bench was the only anchor in his life. It was his bed, his living room, and his corporate headquarters. Actually, they were two benches stuck together, about eight feet long in total and gently curved, wide enough to sleep in if you kept your hands tucked under the pillow”, Berczeller narrated. But he never slept during the day, though his eyes often drooped from boredom; you could always find Alfred sitting in the middle of his bench, in front of a rickety white Formica table, which he used as a desk,” he added.
His story made him the longest-serving occupant of the Parisian airport. Its origins have been built on the basis of dozens of press releases that have been written
The pilgrimage that brought Sir Alfred to the French airport began in 1972. After his father’s death, his family confessed to him that he was an illegitimate son and his real mother was Scottish. They also rejected himwhich forced Alfred to leave home, which he took advantage of to study Yugoslav economics in the north of England.
He returned to Iran in 1974, and there he was arrested and tortured by the Savak, the Iranian security ministry, and also stripped of his nationality and expelled from the country, after being involved in demonstrations against the Shah.
For the next few years, he wandered around Europe seeking political asylum until, in 1981, Belgium granted him refugee status and issued him identity papers. But his luck would not change, and soon after, his documents were stolen. According to some versions about him, the authorities were able to return them “in a moment of madness.”
Without papers and unable to fly, he began his “adventure”
Following this scene, he traveled from Belgium to France, where he spent the next several years in and out of jail on illegal immigration charges. In 1988 Alfred unsuccessfully attempted to return to the UK, but upon arrival at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport he was unable to leave France because he had no papers.
It was then that he settled in Terminal 1 and made it his home. From his circular confines, he and his lawyer Christian Bourget, a renowned Parisian human rights expert, fought to define his status and send him to London. For more than 10 years they waged a very tough legal battle that had several important milestones.
On the other hand, in 1992, a French court eventually ruled that Nasseri had entered the airport legally as a refugee and could not be removed from it. With his lawyer, he asked the Belgian authorities to grant him his documents, but they refused. However, in 1995, the Belgian government changed his stance and said that he would return his refugee papers to him on the condition that he was under the supervision of a social worker.
I only followed one goal: to return home
But Alfred had one goal: to return to the UK. So he was not willing to leave France and continued in “his home”.
During his first years at the airport, his basic needs were met by sympathetic passers-by and airport workers who were aware of his Kafkaesque situation. People bought him food, gave him money, and listened sympathetically to his story.
In 2006, after 18 years of living at the airport, his health deteriorated. For that alone he had to be removed from Terminal 1 for medical attention. After spending time in hospital, Alfred went to live in a hotel, but on March 6, 2007 he moved to the Emmaus reception center in the 20th district of Paris.