Melbourne, January 7: The 25-year-old Victoria university student had big dreams of becoming an architect. Hassan Asif, moved to Melbourne from Pakistan in 2014 on a student visa before being diagnosed with advanced skin cancer in April.
Being too sick to fly home to Pakistan, where he had once hoped to return and work as an architect, Hassan had to stay-put in Melbourne.
In the terminal stage of cancer, dejected Hassan with only few weeks to live wanted to see his family one last time; and appealed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to allow his mother and brother to travel to Australia and be by his side in his final days. This request was rejected.
However, Melbourne City Mission youth homelessness refuge, who cared for Hassan in his final days pleaded to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to review the decision. After Hassan’s oncologists also appealed to the minister to allow their patient’s family to be by his side, Peter Dutton intervened and the family of the terminally ill student could come to Australia and spend some precious last days with Hassan.
The Australian community also stepped in and an overwhelming response saw the decision reversed. Hassan’s mother and brother arrived in Melbourne for his final days.
In a statement, Melbourne City Mission said Hassan’s brother Rameez and his mother were with Hassan when he died, and “had been a constant and loving presence by his side since arriving in Australia” on December 29.
Hassan Asif, who had been receiving end-of-life care for skin cancer while in Australia, died yesterday morning in Melbourne.
Hassan’s funeral service was held today at the Preston Mosque.
Hassan’s mother Shaheen and brother Rameez and many new friends of Hassan farewelled him at the funeral with their final goodbye.
“He was a brave and a strong boy,” said Mrs Asif through tears. “He struggled a lot.”
Melbourne City Mission’s Sherri Bruinhout said the international student had left a big mark on the community.
“The family was able to come while Hassan was still well enough to introduce them to his life in Australia, and he made quite an impact on his life in Australia,” she said.
While his family prepares to fly back home, they say they will be forever grateful to the Australian community.
“I want to thank all the Australians, especially Melbourne City Mission,” Mrs Asif said.
“It was like a dream come true to be with Hassan”, Rameez said.
On behalf of his mother and family in the Pakistan city of Lahore, Rameez expressed thanks for the care and support Hassan received in Melbourne, and for the chance to be reunited with Hassan in his final days.
“We literally lost hope when our visas got rejected but we still made it to Australia.
“I have no words to describe how happy we were to be with Hassan.
“My brother got the best possible care. Thank you.”
Rameez said many Australians connected with Hassan’s story, which helped raise awareness of his family’s initial visa problems.
The Department of Immigration in a statement said that based on the information initially provided, the Hassan’s mother and brother were considered at risk of overstaying their visa.
A spokesperson for the DIBP said that “The compassionate nature of the proposed visit by his mother and brother was considered, however, anyone wishing to visit Australia must satisfy Australia’s visitor visa requirements, including health, character and genuine temporary stay requirements.
“The likelihood of an applicant overstaying or seeking to remain permanently in Australia is also a matter that must be assessed. Particularly in compassionate circumstances, a decision-maker takes all of the facts of a particular case into consideration”.
After Minister Dutton intervened, the DIBP offered its sympathies and invited Mr Asif’s family to lodge new applications.
An earlier appeal for visas to the Australian High Commission in Pakistan had also been denied.
Hassan’s family was asked to reapply for their visas, which included information about their finances and support from the local Pakistani community during their stay. The visas were then approved.
As they say, ‘all’s well that ends well’ and although Hassan is no more part of the Melbourne community, his family goes back with memories of Hassan’s immense courage, Melbourne community power and Australia’s compassion. An architect in the making; gone too soon.
– Ramakrishna VenuGopal