Immigration

Australia's 'Spiderman' also saved a life but is fighting to stay

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After France offered citizenship to its "Spiderman" hero, a refugee who saved someone’s life in Australia has spoken out.

Iranian-born Homayon Hatami says he has lost count of how many times he has watched France's so-called “Spiderman” at work.

The images of Mali-born Mamoudou Gassama scaling a four-storey building in Paris to rescue a dangling child went viral this week.

As a result, the 22-year-old gained French citizenship, a job as a fire officer, and worldwide hero status.

In 2014, Mr Hatami plunged into icy seas in Geelong, Victoria, to save the life of a woman attempting suicide.

“That’s the [most] important thing I’ve done in my life,” the 29-year-old told SBS News.

“Always I’m thinking about it; she’s alive … breathing still, and I help her.”  

Mamoudou Gassama, left, and Homayon Hatami.
Mamoudou Gassama's dramatic rescue in Paris, left, and local hero Homayon Hatami.
Supplied / SBS News

Mr Hatami was awarded the Royal Humane Society of Australasia Silver Medal for bravery and a received a Commendation for Brave Conduct from Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

But for eight years he has been fighting for permanent residency in his adopted home, only to be told last week that his most recent application for a “safe haven” visa had been refused.

Karate champion

Mr Hatami fled his homeland in 2010, in fear for his life. He spent his first eighteen months in Australia in a detention centre before going on to re-establish his career in karate.

He has won national titles in both Iran and Australia and coached young athletes in Victoria.

Mr Hatami denies he is jealous of France’s “Spiderman” but says can’t help but draw comparisons.

“Why I do exactly same thing, saving someone life in different country, and they look for them as hero … [and] nothing change for me?” he said.

Homayon Hatami
Mr Hatami received two bravery accolades for saving the woman's life.
SBS News

Mr Hatami’s sporting success could have seen him representing Australia, but he could not travel to overseas competitions for fear of not being allowed back into the country.

Further pain

Mr Hatami also faced another setback last year when a car accident left him with back, neck and knee injuries, but he remains determined to stay in Australia and compete on the world stage one day.

“Competing in Olympics levels … competing for Australia and put Australian flag up,” he said. “Get good medals for Australia; that’s my dream.”

Homayon Hatami
Mr Hatami was injured in a car accident last year.
SBS News

Mr Hatami said he will continue to pursue his rights for residency under Australian law.

SBS News contacted the Department of Home Affairs to ask if a considerable act of bravery could influence a person's visa application in Australia.

A spokesperson for the department said all non-citizens applying for a visa "are considered on a case by case basis".

"Australia’s visa programme is non-discriminatory. Anyone may apply and, if they meet the criteria set out in the migration legislation, may be granted a visa."

The spokesperson said it is at the discretion of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as to whether to intervene when a case is in the public interest.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Multicultural Mental Health Australia mmha.org.au

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