Pakistan student Hassan Asif, whose family were initially refused visas to visit, dies in Melbourne

Hassan Asif, the 25-year-old Pakistani student diagnosed with terminal cancer while studying in Australia, has died with his mother and brother by his side.

Asif’s brother, Rameez, said the young student had died at a Melbourne hospice on Wednesday morning. Rameez and his mother had initially been denied a visa to Australia to visit Asif, who was too sick to travel.

Rameez and his mother arrived on 29 December and had been “a constant and loving presence by [Asif’s] side”, the Melbourne City Mission said in a statement.

Rameez thanked the staff for their care and support of his brother.

“It was like a dream come true to be with Hassan,” he said.

“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.”

Asif was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in April while he was studying architecture at Victoria University. He was cared for by the City Mission homeless charity.

Asif’s mother and brother had applied to come to Australia to be with him for his last weeks, but immigration officials denied their visas. After a public outcry the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, initially defended the ruling, citing the risk of Rameez and his mother overstaying their visas or seeking asylum. But moments after his press conference the department reversed its decision and granted the visas.

Once in the country, Rameez and his mother went straight to Asif, who had been moved to a hospice. They were able to spend a full eight days with him before he died. Shortly before Christmas he enjoyed a day at the Big Bash cricket with care staff, but Guardian Australia was told his health deteriorated very quickly.

The family invited members of the community to pay final respects to Asif at a funeral service on Thursday at noon at the Preston mosque.

Liz Bishop, interim CEO of the Melbourne City Mission, noted the outpouring of support from the Australian community during Asif’s last weeks.

“It’s very interesting to have a tragedy on one hand but to be uplifted by the work of our staff, the support of the community and offers of donations,” she told Guardian Australia.

A fundraising drive for Asif’s care and his family’s travel and accommodation raised about $20,000. Any unused funds would go to the mission’s palliative care work, Bishop said.

“It gladdens the heart at Christmas time to know that people are good.”

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