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16 Mar 2020

Refugees Are Praying For Peter Dutton's Recovery From The Coronavirus

"I missed family since 2013. I know how it is hard [for] living people [who] separate from their families."

AAP

The most high-profile Australian to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is home affairs minister Peter Dutton.

Dutton is best known as the face of Australia's harsh immigration policies, particularly when it comes to people who seek asylum by boat.

Under his Coalition government, hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers have been held in offshore detention camps in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru for years, with many becoming desperately sick.

Dutton successfully fought for the repeal of the so-called medevac law, which made it easier for sick people to be brought to Australia from offshore detention for medical treatment. Many of those who made it to Australia under the laws have spent months in detention onshore, either in detention centres or hotels, which have been declared to be "alternative places of detention".

Dutton has also overseen the ratcheting up of visa cancellations and refusals on "character" grounds, which has also left many people in detention centres, due to criminal offences and other character issues.

So when Dutton told Australia that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday afternoon, how did refugees, asylum seekers and people held in detention respond? Using Facebook, BuzzFeed News asked what the reaction was.

This refugee, detained in a Brisbane motel, says he is praying for Dutton.

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This man, who was transferred to a Brisbane detention centre from Papua New Guinea, is also praying for Dutton and hopes he gets well soon.

Facebook

This man, in the same Brisbane detention centre, is not a fan of Dutton, but says he forgives him.

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But he also said that he is worried about the virus spreading in the detention centre. The detainees are concerned that security guards might bring the virus in from the outside world. "We are all panicking here," he said.

"He have wife he have kids we refugees are not heart less we will pray for you that you will be ok," says this man held in the Brisbane motel.

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This refugee, living in the community but without work rights or Medicare, says he is "sorry" to hear about Dutton's diagnosis and that he understands how hard isolation is. But he also describes it as "karma".

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Of course, not all reactions to Dutton's announcement were as gracious. As of Monday morning, almost 4,000 people had signed an online petition for Dutton to be quarantined on Christmas Island.


Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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