10 People Who Lived in an Airport for Months

by Aleena Khan2 months ago
Picture 10 People Who Lived in an Airport for Months

While living in an airport may seem impractical and legally unfeasible, it does have all the modern amenities one needs to survive, including a robust shelter to protect from the weather. And so, a few people have stayed in these “no man’s lands” for periods far more than the norm. Let’s read the stories of people who have lived in an airport by force or by choice.

1 Mehran Karimi Nasseri spent 18 years of his life in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Mehran Karimi had made Charles De Gaulle Airport his home
Mehran Karimi had made Charles De Gaulle Airport his home. Image Credit: Sky News Australia /Youtube.com

In 1988, on a trip to Paris, Mehran Karimi lost documents that proved his identity and refugee status. Regardless of the lack of papers, the authorities at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris allowed him to fly to London. But immigration officials at Heathrow Airport in London weren’t so complacent and sent him back to Charles de Gaulle Airport.


Without any ID documents, Mehran found himself trapped in the holding area of the Charles de Gaulle Airport with just a few clothes and $500.

He started living in the airport, and his wait for a resolution turned from days to weeks, months, and years.

But after 11 years, when Mehran finally got the freedom to leave the airport and move to a European country of his choice, he refused to move out of the airport.

The airport had become his home, and he was now scared to leave it.

He was well taken care of by strangers and airport employees. The staff would give him coupons to buy meals, and strangers who read about his unique situation sent him money in the mail.

However, in 2006, Mehran was forced to be hospitalized, following which he stayed outside the airport for several years.

However, he returned to the airport in September 2022. As fate would have it, he passed away in Terminal 2F of the airport on 12 November,  just two months after his return. (1,2)


2 Zahra Kamalfar and her two children spent 11 months at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Zahra Kamalfar and children spend 11 months in Moscow airport before finding refuge in Canada.
Zahra Kamalfar and children spend 11 months in Moscow airport before finding refuge in Canada. Image Credit: Standardnewswire.com

Zahra Kamalfar, an Iranian political prisoner, fled the country with her two children, Anna and Davood, in 2005. She had planned to enter Canada via Russia and Germany but was intercepted in Germany for carrying fake documents and sent back to Russia.

The family was first put under house arrest in a hotel in Moscow. They were later relocated to the Sheremetyevo International Airport, where they spent the next 11 months sleeping on the floor and eating food donated by airport staff.

During her stay at the airport, Zahra applied for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR).

The UNHCR initially rejected the application but later approved the demand after an appeal by Zahra’s lawyer. Soon after, she was allowed into Canada in March of 2007. (1,2,3)


3 Mohammed Al Bahish was held captive in a small room for more than five months in Kazakhtan’s Almaty International Airport in 2013.

Twenty-six-year-old Mohammed Al Bahish was in the process of registering his marriage with his girlfriend when he lost his refugee travel documents. The Palestinian refugee, with no immediate family members alive, had flown from Iran to Kazakhstan with dreams of starting a family with his lover, Olessya Grichshenko.

Not only did he lose his refugee papers, but his UAE and Kazakh visas had also expired. As a result, he was shuttled back and forth between Istanbul and Kazakhstan four times before being held in the transit area of Almaty International Airport in Kazakhstan.

Mohammed was confined to a tiny room with a bunk bed, table, a sofa, and no windows. He felt like a prisoner as security guards accompanied him on his trips to the showers reserved for staff and served food prepared for the passengers onboard Air Astana.

He was held captive in the airport for more than five months before being moved to the UNHCR transit center in Romania on 17 August 2013. (1,2)


4 Ahmed Kannan lived in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport for 54 days because a border guard in Turkey misplaced his passport.

Ahmed Kanan stayed at Kuala Lumpur Airport for 54 days
Ahmed Kanan stayed at Kuala Lumpur Airport for 54 days. Image Credit: Huffpost.com

In 2013, Ahmed Kannan ended up living in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport because a border officer at an airport in Turkey had misplaced his Palestinian passport.

Officials in Turkey sent him back to Malaysia. However, his 30-day Malaysian visa had expired, and the officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport did not believe his story of his passport being mishandled.

So, he started living in the transit area of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. As there were no banks in the transit area, Ahmed was forced to be at the mercy of passers-by and airport employees for food. A staffer even risked his job by laundering the young man’s clothes every few days.

Fortunately, the UN recovered his passport, and Ahmed’s ordeal ended after 54 days when Malaysia gave him a 30-day visa. (source)


5 Feng Zhenghu had no choice but to protest at Tokyo’s Narita Airport for three months after China barred him from entering his homeland.

Feng Zhenghu demanding his right to return to China
Feng Zhenghu demanding his right to return to China. Image Credit: Zhenghu feng/Wikipedia.org

Feng Zhenghu, a Chinese dissenter and human rights activist, lived in an airport in Tokyo because Chinese authorities stopped him from returning to China after a visit to Japan. After his eighth failed attempt to re-enter, Feng camped at Tokyo’s Narita Airport in November 2009 to peacefully protest against the injustice and demand his right to return home.

As the news of the sit-in spread and made headlines, Chinese activists from around the world and from mainland China ensured that Feng received essential supplies.

People who supported Feng handed food and other essentials to passengers departing from Vancouver Airport in Canada and Copenhagen Airport in Denmark to Narita Airport. They asked the passengers to pass on the item to Feng.

Feng’s protest lasted for three months, and his efforts finally paid off when he was allowed to re-enter his homeland in February 2010. (1,2)

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