LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Federal Government’s refusing to grant visas to the Pakistani family of a seriously ill boy in Adelaide, saying they’re concerned the family won’t return home. Documents obtained by 7.30 show the case could help other asylum seekers desperate to stay in Australia. South Asia correspondent Sally Sara reports.
SALLY SARA, REPORTER: Saimon is the baby who never went home. He’s spent his life in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. Saimon was born 14 months ago with muscular dystrophy.
In the first few months, Saimon’s condition was so severe, the hospital’s patient ethics committee saw little hope.
(male voiceover): “The committee believes that in your son’s very sad case there’s a strong ethical argument for withdrawing active medical treatment.”
Foreed Hussaini refused to give up on his son. Saimon will need care for the rest of his life, but now doctors are hopeful he may be able to leave hospital.
DAVID THOMAS, WOMEN’S & CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, ADELAIDE: He’s developing socially, he’s a very interactive little boy, he likes music. When music is on, he tries to wiggle around as though he’s attempting to dance to the music. He certainly responds to that. He responds well to his father.
SALLY SARA: While Saimon is slowly developing, his life began with loss. His mother, Sina, died while giving birth to him. She was only 23 years old. Now Mr Husseini is doing his best to raise Saiman alone.
MOHAMMAD FAREED HUSSAINI: That is very, very hard, you know. If anyone lose the family, lose the wife or husband, they know what I feeling.
SALLY SARA: Mr Hussaini came to Australia as a refugee from Pakistan 10 years ago. He’s made his life in Adelaide and become an Australian citizen, but the loss of his wife has left emptiness.
MOHAMMAD FAREED HUSSAINI: You lost yourself and you don’t know what where you go to, you know, that’s good or bad, and it’s very hard.
SALLY SARA: Sina was a young bride who came to Australia to start a new life with Fareed Husseini.
Back in the Pakistani city of Quetta, her mother is immobilised by grief. She spends hours sitting on the kitchen floor.
ZAKIA ASSA KHAN, GRANDMOTHER (voiceover translation): At the moment I heard she had died, I didn’t know where I was. The sky and earth fell on me.
MOHAMMAD ATIF ALI: It was totally shocked. And it was almost unbelievable that I would not believing that my sister is dead.
SALLY SARA: Sina Gal’s family wants to go to Australia to find out why she died and to see baby Saimon, who is unable to travel to them.
MOHAMMAD ATIF ALI: And now his baby is alone in the hospital and we want to see him because he is ill. He need us and we need him.
SALLY SARA: Saimon’s grandmother and uncle applied for visas to visit Australia in November last year, but they were rejected by the Department of Immigration.
MOHAMMAD ATIF ALI: I was totally surprised why they reject our visa, and I was so, so, so, so – my heart become so bad because they reject our visa.
SALLY SARA: Documents obtained by 7.30 show the department was concerned Saimon’s relatives would try to stay on in Australia.
(male voiceover): “Whilst I note there is a compassionate reason for your intended journey the factors below lead me to doubt your incentive to return to Pakistan after your intended visit.”
SANDI LOGAN, IMMIGRATION DEPT SPOKESMAN: When the Department of Immigration and Citizenship considers any visa application, we take into account a number of considerations, including incentive to return, the financial circumstances of the applicant or applicants, whether there are any ties to family or relatives and what the work situation might be for the applicant in terms of returning to employment. Of course there’s health, identity and security taken into account.
SALLY SARA: Human rights advocate and registered migration agent Marion Le believes the decision is inhumane and tragic for Saimon and his father.
MARION LE, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE: This is a – clearly compassionate case. You’ve got an Australian citizen man here in Australia with an Australian citizen child and they’re both suffering.
SALLY SARA: Saimon’s family are members of the Hazara ethnic group. Hazaras are an ethnic minority in Afghanistan. Some come from areas which are dominated by the Taliban and have endured persecution. As a result, a large number of has Hazaras have gone across the border into neighbouring Pakistan, especially to the city of Quetta.
The Federal Government has dismissed the asylum claims of some has Hazaras who say they’re facing danger in Pakistan. But Saimon’s family received this: their visas were rejected because immigration officials believe the situation is so dangerous in Quetta the family may refuse to return from Australia.
(male voiceover): “The security situation in Baluchistan, particularly Quetta, is generally poor. The Hazaran community is specifically affected by sectarian killings … . Since the year 2003, more than 260 people belonging to the Hazaran community in Quetta have been killed in targeted shootings and more than 1,000 injured. There’ve been no convictions for these killings so far.”
SALLY SARA: This remarkable assessment from the Department of Foreign Affairs is at odds with the Government’s own rejection of some Hazara asylum seekers.
MARION LE: Well, I just find this extraordinary. It’s almost like solid gold for refugee seekers here in Australia.
SALLY SARA: Human rights advocate Marion Le believes this document will be invaluable in arguing the case for Hazaras seeking sanctuary in Australia.
MARION LE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I certainly will be using it as a quote and probably, yes, I mean, I think that it actually sums up in a very succinct manner the situation that is facing the Hazara people in Quetta.
SALLY SARA: But Saimon’s relatives say they don’t want asylum in Australia, they’re just desperate to visit family.
MOHAMMAD ATIF ALI: Now, we want justice from Australian Government that our family see the baby.
SALLY SARA: The family has written to the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister pleading for permission to visit Australia. They’ve been invited to re-apply for visas, but cautioned that, “… the decision may not be any different.”
SANDI LOGAN: This is not a visa application that has been rejected that can be appealed, so there’ll be no reconsideration.
SALLY SARA: These home videos have become a lifeline for the family separated between Adelaide and Quetta. But Saimon’s grandmother still dreams that one day she will come to Australia and finally hold her grandson.
ZAKIA ASSA KHAN (voiceover translation): I will hug him. What else can I do? I will hug him and I will cry, because now he is the only flower from my daughter.
LEIGH SALES: Sally Sara reporting.