It sounds like a page from a Douglas Adams book but Merhan Karimi Nasseri, a former Iranian citizen, was trapped in Paris' Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1 arrivals lounge for over a decade.

In the 1980s Nasseri was expelled from Iran for his political views. In 1988 he went to Belgium to seek political asylum. There he was granted UN refugee documents which allowed him to apply for refugee status in a number of European countries. Nasseri had some distant relatives in England and he thought he'd try there. Unfortunately, while waiting for a connecting flight in Paris, his briefcase with his passport and his refugee documents was stolen. When he got to England, immigration officials refused him entry and sent him back to Charles De Gaulle airport.

France refused to allow him to leave the airport and step on French soil. They tried to deport him, but without any identification, they could not send him anywhere. He was forced to remain in Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1. Nasseri managed to contact an immigration lawyer who contacted the UN commission in Belgium. They agreed to issue him new refugee papers. Unfortunately, their regulations did not allow them to mail these documents. One has to pick them up in person. The only problem was Nasseri could not enter Belgium again. When he got the papers the first time, he was classified as a refugee. Since he left Belgium to try and settle in England he triggered a Belgian law that stipulated a refugee who voluntarily leaves Belgium cannot reenter.

You guessed it. Catch-22.

While Nasseri's lawyer slowly worked through the immigration systems of Belgium, France, and Britain, Nasseri subsisted in Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1 for a decade, living off the good charity of airport employees (he was dubbed "Sir Alfred" by airport employees because of his desire to go to England). He received food vouchers from various airlines. Passengers gave him used books/magazines. He kept a diary. The airport doctor made regular house calls. Tales of his plight began to spread. He was the subject of numerous media stories. He became a symbol of Europe's bureaucracy gone mad.

In 1999, Nasseri's lawyer managed to convince the UN in Belgium to make an exception and mail out his refugee documents. With the documents in hand and a burgeoning status as a cult hero, France accepted him as a refugee and gave him a French residency permit. Free to finally leave the airport, Nasseri suddenly refused to leave. His decade long incarceration had psychologically institutionalized him. Charles De Gaulle airport agreed not to kick him out and continue living in the airport until French social service agencies helped him adjust to life outside.

Nasseri's plight was eventually told in a poorly received 2001 film called From Here to Where.

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