Homes are where people live and love to create memories. Each home can be unique in a way, even if it is a 26-storey building like Mukesh Ambani's Antilla or a small shanty settlement housing 5 people. Now, you may be asking yourselves: "But Mr Wings, isn't this an aviation blog? Why are you talking about homes?" That's because there was one man, Mehran Karimi Nasseri or Sir Alfred Mehran, who had a very unique home for 18 years in the heart of France: Paris CDG Terminal 1. No, seriously. I'm not joking.
Mehran was born in Masjed Soleiman in Iran, during the year 1942. He participated in anti-government activities which led him to be exiled from Iran in 1977, officially rendering him stateless. He later found out that his current mother wasn't actually his birth mother, and that his biological mother was Scottish, which meant he could apply for citizenship in the UK. At the time he was stationed in Belgium under refugee status. So he gathered up all he had, as well as his refugee papers and Iranian passport. Little did he know what was going to strike him next...
Sir Alfred set off for London in 1988 via Paris. During a train journey in Paris, his passport and suitcase got stolen in which his refugee papers were (as he claims). Now, the passport control at Paris let him go for some reason which is how he got to London. The passport control at London, however, sent him back to Paris. Unfortunately, he couldn't enter France either as he had no legal documents to prove his identity. In this case, Sir Alfred could have been sent back to his home country in which he could enter without his passport in an emergency. Then again, he was stateless. Thus in August 1988, his long life in CDG's Terminal 1 lifted off.
It was a slow start for Sir Alfred, but he gradually got used to his life at the airport. His daily routine saw him waking up at the crack of dawn to brush his teeth, comb his hair, etc before passengers would arrive for their flights. Airport personnel offered him food from the McDonalds as he couldn't cook. He was even given his own bench, table and chair to sit down and watch the planes take off and land, which was quite a privilege! He would also chat with passengers. He wrote in his diary which ended up spanning over a thousand pages. This would occur until late in the evening where afterwords he would give his clothes in for washing and call it a day.
Sir Alfred became a global star, with many reporters entering the airport to interview him. He would tell his story in many different ways, which is why if you were to go on to other different websites (even though you would always come back here), you would find a slightly different version of the story in each one. Anyways, he also turned the head of Christian Bourget, a human rights lawyer. Bourget tried helping Sir Alfred by persuading Belgium to mail the documents. Now there were two problems to this:
Firstly, Belgium wanted Sir Alfred to physically show himself in order to confirm that he was the one who was granted refugee access. Now he could not go to Belgium for this as he had no documentation or passport!
Secondly, Sir Alfred used to live in Belgium under refugee status, and by Belgian law a refugee which leaves the country cannot return.
Eventually in 1999, France caved in and allowed Sir Alfred a free entry into France, as well as a free residence permit along with new papers. In those papers, Sir Alfred was listed by Mehran Karimi Nasseri and his nationality as Iranian, and that was anything but what he wanted. He wanted the papers to list him as British and his name as Sir Alfred! Besides, he said that he was enjoying his life at the airport and had made friends there! So, he eventually decided to stay at the airport and that sent Christian into utter shock.
In 2006, Sir Alfred finally departed the airport though not in the way he expected. He was hospitalized for an undisclosed ailment (though it could be regarding the psychological toll taken on him during the years in the airport or the shock of remixing in the society, imo) and was looked after by the French Red Cross near the airport, then was transferred into a shelter where he's been living ever since.
Sir Alfred's life was surely a roller coaster, with many twists and turns. His story is definitely a fascinating one, which prompted me and many others around the world to write about it. After all, it's not everyday you see someone living at an airport! If you find yourself stuck at one, be ready to pull off a "Sir Alfred!"