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Kafkaesque exile cleared for take-off

The Times of London
July 13, 1999

AN IRANIAN exile who claims to be the son of a Scottish nurse may be nearing the end of his 11-year wait for a flight out of Paris. Merhan Karimi Nasseri, 54, known at Charles de Gaulle airport as Sir Alfred, has been granted refugee status by the Belgian authorities, bringing to an end a tale that makes Kafka seem simple.

His frail, emaciated frame has been parked on a red plastic seat at a café in Terminal 1 since 1988. Staff give him money and food, airport doctors take care of him, the police unofficially protect him and he is taking a correspondence course. He says he studied at Bradford University in the 1970s and that his mother was the mistress of an Iranian doctor in 1945.

His troubles started when he tried to return to Britain in search of his family after being expelled from Iran as a political opponent of the Shah. Granted refugee status by Belgium in 1981, he made repeated attempts to cross the Channel and was turned back every time. In 1983 he lost his papers on a ferry, leaving him stateless. In 1988 he reached Heathrow but was sent back to Charles de Gaulle.

Belgium has now given him fresh papers but it is unlikely that he will be allowed into Britain. He says he would like to go to Brussels to get a diploma.


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