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Dying Pakistani student's family finally get Australia visas

The government initially refused Australia visas to the mother and brother of a dying Pakistani man. But after a public outcry the government reversed itself.

Australia's immigration minister stepped in to approve visas Wednesday for the Pakistani family of a terminally ill young man to enter the country to see him before he dies.

The move comes after a wave of protest at an earlier decision by the Immigration Department to deny visas to the mother and brother of Hassan Asif, 25, who was studying architecture in Melbourne when he contracted cancer and deteriorated rapidly.

Asif is being cared for at the Melbourne City Mission for the Homeless where doctors say he only has weeks to live.

Mission director Sherri Bruinhout made a public appeal for help Tuesday after Asif's family was refused a visa to enter the country to say goodbye to him. Protesters organized petitions, and community leaders spoke against the decision.

Callous government decision

The opposition Labor party's immigration shadow immigration minister Richard Marles said the government should reverse the "callous" decision as the young Pakistani student ought to be able to spend

his last weeks with his family

.

"On the face of it, it seems a cruel and callous decision to refuse his Pakistani-based mother and brother a visa to visit Mr. Asif," Marles said.

"This appears to be a disgraceful and heartless decision."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the immigration authorities had made the right decision on the information provided, as they had to consider whether someone coming to Australia would try to stay or make a claim for protection.

An official said Tuesday that Asif's family members did not appear to have the means to support themselves during their visit and pay for their flight home and that Asif himself had applied for asylum in Australia.

"In some cases "attempts to stay" can result in millions of dollars of expense to the taxpayer," Dutton told reporters Wednesday.

"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."

Government's about-face

But within half an hour

the minister reversed himself

.

"I'd asked the post in Islamabad to have a look at the case, to ask for additional information. That's happened, and the visas have been approved," he told Sky News.

"I'm hopeful that they can arrive in Australia soon and spend some time with their terminally ill son and brother. I think that's what most Australians would expect."

Melbourne City Mission's Sherri Bruinhout said Asif

cried when he heard the news

.

"There were tears all round when his brother called Hassan, the family are thrilled and delighted to be able to come to Australia," she told Fairfax Media. "When we heard the news everyone was crying."

bik/jil (dpa, AFP)

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