'The Terminal' man Merhan Karimi, 76, dies at airport where he lived for 18 years

The tragic story of Merhan Karimi was taken by several filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg in his movie, 'The Terminal' and was played by Tom Hanks

'The Terminal' man Merhan Karimi, 76, dies at airport where he lived for 18 years
Merhan Karimi, an Iranian refugee who lived in Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport for decades has died (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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PARIS, FRANCE: Merhan Karimi, an Iranian resident who was caught in legal limbo after his home country rejected him as a citizen in 1988, has died. The 76-year-old was a refugee who had lived in Terminal 1's departure lounge of Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 until 2006. As per reports, the man died due to a heart attack in Terminal 2F of the airport around midday on Saturday, November 13. An official told that though a desperate effort was made by police and medical staff to revive Karimi, he couldn’t be saved.

The tragic story of Karimi was taken by several filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg in his movie, 'The Terminal' (2004) where the lead character was played by Tom Hanks. The producer bought the rights for $250,000, though, most of the events depicted in the movie were fictional. As per French media, Karimi lacked papers, which got him into a sticky situation. But, it was his choice to stay there. He started living again at the airport most recently, said the airport official.

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He wrote his autobiography 'The Terminal Man', where he shared in detail his story and all the events that led him to be living at the airport. Karimi alleged that his country had kicked him out in 1977 for protesting against the Shah. He was later given refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Belgium. This made him eligible to choose his residency in several other European nations, but an investigation found that Karimi was never debarred from Iran, reports The Mirror.

Karimi wished to settle in the UK in 1986 since his mother was from Britain, but he claimed to have lost his papers en route to Lonndon. He was then sent back to France by the London airport authority. The refugee was taken into custody by the French authority and since it was legal for him to be in the airport, there was nowhere for him to go. Christian Bourget, a human rights lawyer had taken up his case and fought a legal battle with the French authority, though, the court ruled out that they cannot kick him out of the country, and can’t take him in either, as per the report.

Belgium's attempts to grant him new documents were jeopardized after the authorities claimed it needed the person to present himself in person. After years of struggle, in 1995, he was finally permitted to travel to Belgium and live under the supervision of a social worker. But, Karimi was adamant to live in Britain and nowhere else. In March 2007, he decided to move to an Emmaus charity reception center in Paris and for many years remained in the French capital.

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