Australia refuses wife's application for tourist visa for refugee husband's burial

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Life after Death
Chiara Micheletti embraces her mother Marisa Vesco in her room at a hospice where she stayed for a month and a half before her death in Biella, Italy, August 21, 2015. Reuters/Gaia Squarci

A grieving wife applied for an Australian tourist visa on April, the same month her refugee husband died at LaTrobe Regional Hospital. On May 30, the Aussie government refused her application, which would have allowed her to set foot in Australia for her deceased husband's funeral.

Asghar Ali was a Hazara refugee from Pakistan. A situation lawyer said his body stayed in a Victorian morgue almost two months after he died, a situation the legal expert described as “disturbingly common.”

The father-of-three came to Down Under by boat before 2013 and was granted protection. He died in the country on April 16, shortly after his 39th birthday.

His wife Masooma filed an application for an Aussie tourist visa on April 23 based on documents obtained by Fairfax Media. But her application was refused by the government five weeks later.

The immigration department official recognised a "compelling and compassionate" case for granting the visa. However, it said Masooma's personal circumstances were also considered as well as the relative attractiveness of Australia compared to Pakistan.

"Although I am very sympathetic to your desire to be present at your husband's funeral during this difficult time, I am not satisfied that the compassionate grounds outweigh the concerns I have over your compliance with the conditions that will be placed on any visa granted to you," the immigration official said in a letter. The official explained he was not satisfied that Masooma's personal and economic circumstances in her home country would provide her with the incentive to return.

An interview conducted by phone was referenced by the department, in which Masooma allegedly indicated she had no intention to return to Pakistan after her visit to Australia. However, she told Fairfax Media that it was not the case.

Masooma was assisted by a translator because she could not speak English. She told Fairfax Media she only wanted to see her husband for the last time. “Once I do it then I have to go back, so that's my wish,” the Sydney Morning Herald quotes her as saying.

Simon Fraser, chief medical officer at LaTrobe Regional Hospital, confirmed that Ali's body was still at the morgue, adding they were hopeful matters related to Ali's collection and burial will be resolved for the sake of his family. He said they have been in contact with Melbourne's Hazara Shamama Association. Meanwhile, a Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson said such applications were always "carefully considered.”

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