No one was really surprised when Gabi became the target of a sophisticated international crime gang, least of all my gal pal herself.
Gabs is the kind of person who can be wandering along minding her own business when out of nowhere a herd of wildebeest will appear and stampede toward her.
She has the equanimity of someone completely accustomed to chaos.
When Gabs calmly climbs down out of the nearest tree and you ask how on earth such a thing could possibly happen to her – or indeed, any one several continents away from the African veld – she’ll reply: “I dunno, just lucky I guess.”
So it was when, on a recent visit to Melbourne, she went to withdraw some money from her bank account and noticed a major discrepancy, Gabs didn’t panic.
In 48 hours her card was skimmed of $2600 – the money having been withdrawn from five locations across Sydney’s south-west while she explored Melbourne’s lanes.
Turns out she had used her card at one of at least 15 ATMs targeted by specialist Romanian gangs who travel the world skimming the accounts of hapless single mums and dental nurses.
Romanian organised crime gangs specialise in this kind of crime. They have targeted Australia many times before, flying in on legitimate visas. Other known fly-in-fly-out criminals include teams of Irish conmen who pose as legitimate tradies then charge home-owners grossly inflated prices for substandard “work”.
If this is the kind of person we not only welcome, but rubber-stamp, why do we insist on demonising the poor desperate beggars trying to reach our shores in boats?
According to the Federal Government’s own figures there are at least 50,000 people living in Australia illegally after overstaying visas.
They have paid for their airline tickets and entered the country legally, then deliberately and calculatedly broken the rules.
Those men, women and children who climb aboard unseaworthy death traps have broken no laws, nor are they seeking to deceive us.
They are out there waving their arms and crying for help.
To see yet another Australian federal election degenerate into a race to the bottom of the ocean on the issue of asylum seekers is way more than depressing.
When politicians talk about our “porous borders”, what really they mean is borders to the poor.
They are appealing to our basest nature on a question which won’t make an iota of difference to the quality of the average Australian’s life.
According to the latest UNHCR figures 45.2 million people were in situations of displacement at the end of last year including 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their own countries.
During 2012 some 7.6 million people became newly displaced, 1.1 million crossing borders as refugees and 6.5 million as internally displaced people.
This translates to more than 20,000 people around the world forced to flee their homes every single day.
Put in an Australian context, that’s 4000 more people displaced around the world on any given day than asylum seekers arrive on our shores during the entire year.
For that is the true extent of our cynical, sickening, politically manufactured “boat people crisis”.
In the greatest worldwide refugee tsunami in 20 years, it’s literally a drop in the ocean.