IT was enough to bring UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid back from his luxury African safari holiday. Enough to have the Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, demand the government “get a grip”.

Enough, too, for that stalwart of all things British and Brexit, Nigel Farage to take to Twitter to ask: “What is to stop thousands more coming?”

Dear God, listening to the clamour from within the ranks of the UK Government and right-wing press over the English Channel “migrant crisis”, these past days you could have been forgiven for thinking we were back in 1940 facing Nazi Germany’s Operation Sea Lion plan to invade Britain.

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This time, of course, there were no landing craft or barges filled with foreign storm troopers, just a handful of freezing, desperate refugees, some of them unaccompanied minors, fleeing the sorts of wars and kind of persecution the Nazis brought to the world all those decades ago.

Lacking an iota of perspective or compassion, Javid’s questioning of whether those refugees who had made the crossing were indeed “genuine” asylum seekers instantly reminded me of a Syrian grandfather I met four years ago.

The man’s name was Bassem and along with eight other members of his family he had fled his village home north-west of the Syrian city of Hama. One of Bassem’s grandsons had lost an eye from his injuries after missiles hit a field hospital near their village where he was helping move patients. Another grandson, Mohammed, still had a piece of shrapnel in his chest that needed removing.

“We lost everything, and almost lost our minds in Syria,” Bassem told me that day when we met. Just hours before I bumped into the family on the Greek island of Kos back in 2015, they had made the perilous night-time sea crossing from near the Turkish port of Bodrum in a flimsy rubber dinghy.

Even today in Bodrum the quayside is lined with the elegant yachts and motor launches that are the playthings of the rich.

Many who holiday or stay there are British, and back in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis on this part of the Aegean they could not have failed to notice the Turkish Coast Guard vessels bringing back the bodies of the drowned and the nearly drowned.

They could not have failed to notice, too, in Bodrum’s picturesque harbour, the cottage industries that had sprung up making fake life jackets filled with bubble wrap for those refugees about to make the crossing to the Greek islands.

Then, just as now in the English Channel, there are those who callously seek to profit from the plight of others.

“The most difficult thing is to put your feet inside the boat knowing the danger,” I can still recall Bassem telling me.

To this day, his confession of the dread that crossing held for him and his family sticks in my mind. These were people who had known fear in all its forms, but it was that sea crossing that terrified them most.

How then can it be that the UK Government cannot see those currently trying to cross the English Channel for the desperate individuals and families they really are? Why else would they take such an enormous risk in a small boat in the dead of winter?

Part of the answer lies, of course, in the fact that for so long now refugees have been seen as nothing other than political and material collateral. What is happening right now over the Channel issue serves as yet another painful demonstration of how refugees are increasingly politicised by unprincipled leaders. As far as the UK Government is concerned, it seems more than happy to take its lead from the pages of the Donald Trump’s how-to-treat-foreigners manual.

What we see over the Channel “crisis” has real parallels with the “migrant caravan”, when a few thousand Central Americans literally walked through Mexico to seek asylum in the US.

“I don’t care what the fake media says, that is an invasion of our country,” Trump insisted while campaigning in Tennessee ahead of November’s midterm elections.

US troops – just like their British counterparts over the Channel debacle – were put on alert in what was effectively nothing but a fabricated crisis that dominated the US pre-midterm headlines.

No sooner had it appeared than the crisis miraculously vanished as a perceived political threat once Trump’s scaremongering had served its political purpose.

Likewise over Christmas, as Trump faced pressure at home over everything from the Mueller investigation to the backlash over his decision to pull US troops out of Syria, suddenly again “migrants” became the scapegoat. This time he triggered a government shutdown over funding for his border wall with Mexico, the cornerstone of his presidential campaign

Yes, it seems that since then a few people in the UK Government have definitely been taking a leaf out of Trump’s playbook.

Having problems with Brexit? Then let’s just stir up a bit of xenophobia and scare Little England with tales of Johnny Foreigner “massing” on UK shores.

The other terrible irony in the UK Government’s response is that it’s also no coincidence that Iraqis and Afghans are among those who risked their lives to cross the Channel. Decades after Britain joined the US in invasions of both countries, those now fleeing are not a threat but victims and proof of UK foreign policy failures and military adventures.

In the four years since I met Bassem and his family while they were fleeing Syria, it appears we have learned little. It was around this time of year back then also that another Syrian refugee – Abdullah Kurdi – appeared on British television on Christmas day with a simple message.

Most of us will remember that image of his three-year-old son Alan washed up on a beach in Turkey three months earlier.

“At this time of year, I would ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers and children who are seeking peace and security,” Abdullah Kurdi said. “We ask just for a little sympathy from you.”

It’s time for that sympathy to be put unequivocally at the forefront of our response to refugees. Time also to call out the hysterical hostility some wish to see amplified over what is happening in the English Channel.

If there is a “crisis” there right now it is one of the UK Government’s own imaginary making … and we all know the reason why.