The Australian Department of Immigration on Wednesday granted visas to family members of a terminally ill Pakistani national in Australia so they can visit him in Melbourne before he dies. The decision follows widespread public outrage after the immigration department earlier denied the visas. Hassan Asif, 25, a student in Melbourne, was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer in July.
Asif is reportedly too ill to travel to Pakistan and wants to be with his family. However, immigration ministers cited information in his mother's and brother’s visa applications and concluded that they may overstay in Australia. The rejection of their visas sparked outrage in the country and abroad. "This appears to be a disgraceful and heartless decision," said Labor's Immigration spokesman Richard Marles, according to Sydney Morning Herald.
"I'm dying and it's really hard because of the pain. In these circumstances everybody would like to be with family," Asif told Daily Mail Australia, adding: "My mum is very sad — she cries a lot and just wants to be here with me during this time. "
"I don't have many friends here because before I was diagnosed most of my time was spent working or studying," Asif said.
Before the announcement of the visa approval for Asif’s family members, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton held a press conference Wednesday over the issue and said that the government stood by its decision. However, he added that they could be granted a visa with a fresh application and more information.
"I've asked for further information to be provided and I think on the basis of that information it's likely that the mother and brother can travel to see their son, their brother here in Australia," Dutton said earlier Wednesday, according to Sydney Morning Herald.
Dutton also said that immigration officials would have taken into account several factors before rejecting the family’s visa for the first time, including the possibility of the applicants overstaying their visa or making a claim for protection.
"In some cases that can result in millions of dollars of expense to the taxpayer," Dutton said, according to BBC, adding: "It may mean that somebody is here on welfare for an extended period of time so the consideration has to be in the national interest."
Later in the day, Dutton confirmed that the family had been granted their visas to travel to Australia.
Sherri Bruinhout, director of homelessness and justice at Melbourne City Mission that provides accommodation and palliative care, said, according to Sydney Morning Herald: "There were tears all round when his brother called Hassan, the family are thrilled and delighted to be able to come Australia. When we heard the news everyone was crying, we always had faith that the Australian government and Minister Dutton would see the compassionate side and always knew the Australian public would support it."