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After 16 years living in Paris Airport refugee reveals his mum was a Scot and begs..efugee reveals his mum was a Scot and begs..

By Russell Findlay In Paris

A REFUGEE who has lived in Paris airport for 16 years yesterday revealed he is a Scot.

Merhan Nasseri told how his mum was from Scotland and said he was heading to Edinburgh in 1988 when turned away from Britain because he had no passport.

He was sent back to Charles de Gaulle airport in November 1988 - and has never left.

Iranian exile Merhan's bizarre life has now inspired Steven Spielberg latest blockbuster, The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks.

Yesterday, he told the Sunday Mail his mum Simone was a nurse from Glasgow, who met his dad while working in the Middle East.

Merhan, who was thrown out of Iran for his political views, has told how when he first left the main airport in Paris for London, he intended to track down family in Scotland.

But Merhan was ordered back to France by the British authorities because he had no passport or papers.

That decision set in motion an astonishing chain of events that led to him spending almost 6000 days without leaving the sprawling airport.

Merhan's home is a small plastic bench deep in the basement of the airport.

He is surrounded by boxed belongings, including clothes and a massive dossier of paperwork.

He has spent 16 long years confined to a tiny area and the farthest he goes is 100 yards in one direction for a McDonald's and the same distance in the other direction to use the toilet.

For years, he survived off charity from well-wishers and caring cafe owners in the airport's Terminal One.

He is so used to his surroundings that even seeing a car outside can spook him.

But despite the living hell of his airport existence, Merhan remains smartly-dressed and well groomed.

He spends the day quietly reading.

He reads several international newspapers each day including Scotland's favourite, the Sunday Mail.

But weeks can pass without anyone speaking to him. He said: 'When I first went to London, I was sent back but I intended to go to Edinburgh.

'I had an address for an advisory service there.

'I wrote to the General Register Office for Scotland.

'They would not tell me anything and I was sent back here. I don't feel angry ... that's the way it is.'

Buried among Merhan's possessions is a prized bottle of his favourite Ballantine's whisky. He also has a letter dated August 13, 1990, from the registry office in Edin-burgh but refuses to allow anyone to read its contents.

Very little is known about Simone, including whether she is alive and, if so, which country she may live in.

After all these years in an airport, Merhan - who calls himself Sir Alfred - is now deeply confused. But when he speaks about the country he wants to make his home, he does so with a passion.

Merhan studied at Bradford University for a year before returning to Iran in 1977. He was exiled from his homeland because he protested against the Shah.

He said: 'When I studied in Bradford in 1976, I wanted to see Scotland but it did not happen. I have seen many pictures of the hills and the landscape, which are very beautiful. I don't know if I still have family there but, perhaps if I do, they could get in touch with me.'

The Spielberg movie, due for release in September, is the second time film-makers have been drawn to the traumatised traveller who seems to be going nowhere.

In 2002, New York director Paul Berczeller spent nine months with Merhan for his award-winning documentary Here to Where.

The director is in no doubt that the man with whom he spent almost nine months is half-Scots. Berczeller said: 'His mother was a nurse with an oil company in Iran and that's when she met his father, who was a doctor.

'He makes up a lot of strange things, as I know from having spent so much time with him.

'But he loves Scotland. When he first came to Heathrow, his intention was to go to Scotland and look for his mother.

'That's what he said he wanted to go to Scotland for. He said he had tried to make contact with his family at that time. I asked him about his mother's name and other family information dozens of times but he said it was all such a long time ago.

'I even went to look at the old employment records of oil companies who were in Iran at the time but didn't find anything out.

'I think I'm the only one to have done that. I must have spent more time with him than anyone else.

'We hung out with him for nine months and he said many things but he certainly thought his mother was Scottish.

'I can't imagine him in a kilt.' Merhan is now a wealthy man after Spielberg's Dreamworks production company paid £200,000 into his post office bank account for the rights to his story.

But the film starring Hanks bears few resemblances to the story that inspired it.

Hanks is an Eastern European travelling to New York for a holiday when his obscure homeland undergoes a revolution.

He is refused entry to the States as his country is no longer recognised by the time he arrives so he cannot leave the city's JFK airport.

During his time there, he falls for a glamorous air stewardess, played by Catherine Zeta Jones.

Spielberg has created a comedy but few film fans will know the harrowing true story behind the box office blockbuster.

Many people believe that Merhan is in need of help rather than a lump of cash from Hollywood.

For the past five years of his 16 years at the airport have been a self-imposed imprisonment. In 1999, the French granted him a temporary resident's permit and refugee passport.

But he refuses to sign the documents because he won't acknowledge Iran as his homeland.

Lawyer Christian Bourguet believes Merhan needs help. He said: 'I think he has lost grip on reality. He can't do anything until he signs the papers but he won't.'

Merhan hopes that Dreamworks will arrange for him to see his movie at the airport.

He also plans to leave the airport one day. He said: 'Of course, I want to leave but it has to be right for me.

'I don't want to go back to Iran so whether I could end up in Scotland, England or even the States, who knows?

'I think I will be out of here by the end of the year. I now want to finish this.'


Merhan Nasseri - the facts and fiction

# Merhan arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, in November, 1988, with a oneway ticket to London, £350 and no passport.

#The French authorities let him board the flight to London anyway but he was sent back when the immigration authorities in Britain realised he had no papers.

#He spends his days reading, listening to the news and writing in a diary which is being made into an autobiography.

#He gets by on a few Euros a day, which he spends on eating breakfast in McDonald's and buying newspapers.

# In his 16 years of living at Charles de Gaulle, no one has ever contacted the airport to say they know him. # Steven Spielberg's film, The Terminal, which is based on Merhan's story, cost more than £33million to produce but the setting was shifted from Paris to New York.

# The blockbuster film centres on the fictitious Victor Airport lounger:Tom Hanks as refugee Navorski, an Eastern European who becomes stranded at JFK airport in New York when his visa becomes invalid due to a government coup in his own country.

#Navorski is played by Tom Hanks - who earned an estimated £11million for the part of the stranded refugee. His air stewardess love interest is played by Catherine Zeta Jones.

#The Terminal was filmed in a specially constructed airport just outside Hollywood, California.

#The 60,000-square-foot set was one of the most elaborate ever constructed for a film.


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