Saturday, May 26, 2012
Every once in awhile, an urban legend turns out to be true. One popular story is of a man stranded at an airport for years due to bureaucratic red tape. It turns out there actually was an Iranian man, nicknamed Alfred, who became trapped in France's Charles de Gaulle Airport for an astonishing 18 years. Ironically, the last five of those years were by choice. He had grown so comfortable in his life there, he was afraid to go back to the real world...
Nasseri was expelled from Iran in 1977 for protests against the Shah and after a long battle, involving applications in several countries, was awarded refugee status by the United Nations High Commission for refugees in Belgium. This permitted residence in any European country.
Having claimed to have one British parent, although he has produced no evidence to support this, he decided to settle in the UK in 1986, but en route to there in 1988, his briefcase containing his papers was stolen in Paris. Despite this setback, he boarded the plane for London but was promptly returned to France when he failed to present a passport to British immigration. He was initially arrested by the French, but then released as his entry to the airport was legal and he had no country of origin to be returned to; thus began his residency at Terminal 1.
Alfred became somewhat of a celebrity at the airport. Flight attendants and other airport workers gave him their food vouchers. He used the airport restroom to clean himself and his clothes. In 2003, he was given permission to live in Belgium, but refused. (Who can blame him? Living in Belgium is probably worse than living in an airport.) In 2007, he went completely berserk and eventually was hospitalized. He is currently 70 years old and living in a homeless shelter in Paris. Talk about a long trip.
Truckin', like the do-dah man. Once told me "You got to play your hand"
Sometimes your cards ain't worth a damn, if you don't lay'em down,
Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me What a long, strange trip it's been...