THE BBC seems proud of its coverage of this year’s migrant “crisis” in the English Channel. Yesterday morning, its two breakfast presenters purred as they went to their colleague Simon Jones for more footage of Syrian refugees struggling to stay alive in an over-crowded rubber dinghy.

The previous day, from the comfort of a BBC vessel (hired on the public account), a camera was pointed at these poor people as Jones shouted a series of bizarre questions at them. Outstanding in its utter fatuousness was this one: “Are you all right?”

Well actually, Simon, they weren’t all right. There were 18 of them in a boat made for about eight which looked on the verge of sinking under their combined weight. They were 3000 miles from home with nothing but the wet clothes they wore. They had been driven to this place by the daily threat of torture and death. As they strove to maintain their dignity, they could also have mentioned that a century of British imperialism followed by catastrophic diplomacy had brought them here.

The Syrians, though, were polite and respectful and merely threw Jones a cheery thumbs-up when really they ought to have been shouting: “What does it f***in’ look like, ya daft fuds?”

READ MORE: Sky follows BBC's lead with 'vile' report on Channel crossing

This is what passes for journalism by the state broadcaster: a cheap exercise in voyeurism with no attempt to provide even an ounce of context. As such, it played to the gallery of racists and right-wing ultras whose hostility towards other cultures currently informs the UK Tories’ foreign and domestic policies.

As the BBC and a succession of ignorant Tories have whipped this daily trickle of human despair into a full-blown crisis, witness the callous indifference to the suffering of fellow human beings. Priti Patel, perhaps the nastiest and most incompetent Home Secretary ever appointed, wants the might of the Royal Navy to go into battle against the dinghies; give them a jolly good hiding and send them back to mainland Europe. Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves …

It took the unlikely alliance of a retired British Navy sea lord and a French MP to remind Patel that human beings in distress are at the centre of this wretched story. Admiral Lord West abjured the use of the term “pushback” by dismissing what the Australians have been doing, a country which pursued a “White Australia” immigration policy until 1973: “The way it succeeded was to pick people out of the water and put them on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific, but this is not the way to treat human beings.”

Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, talked of the difficulties of monitoring a huge coastline and how France had already dismantled human trafficking operations and seized their cash. “The moral duty of everyone at sea is to save lives,” he said. “So basically when you see small boats with immigrants you need to save lives first. And then you can see what you can do with these people. But again we are talking about human beings, we are not talking about cattle or animals.”

READ MORE: Why Priti Patel’s hostile blocks on Channel ‘boat people’ are anathema to Scots

I’m not entirely sure how they teach British imperial history at Oxford and Eton, the favoured finishing schools for BBC executives and the UK Conservative Party, but it seems to be missing the bits about how the UK stitched up the Middle East 100 years ago as it competed with France for influence in the area.

How else do you explain the startling ignorance of our political and media elites about Britain’s ruinous activities in that region?

I’ve watched dozens of xenophobic little Tories being permitted to vent their ignorance about the causes of the human despair which drives refugees and migrants to these shores. Not once have I observed the fake journalists at the BBC ask the obvious question: “What are the root causes of this?”

IT’S not difficult to see how Britain’s incompetent diplomacy and foreign policy over the last two decades has brought us to this place. Around five million people have fled the bombing and fighting in Syria, while more than 10 million souls have been forced out of Iraq after Britain and the US left it to burn following our illegal war and occupation.

The sectarian violence that ensued was inevitable, as was its exploitation by the forces of Daesh, led by psychopaths known to us and of whose conduct we were warned well in advance. But while it suited us in our seedy little military adventures we stuck our fingers in our ears.

Syria, which has been left unstable by generations of UK adventurism, also became a target of Daesh and we have sat on our hands as President Assad has used the situation to commit genocide against his own people.

Britain and France jousted for influence in this area for several years before the First World War: annexing here; invading there until the 1916 Sykes-Picot deal. This was little more than an imperialist carve-up between Britain and France, the principal aim of which was to maintain influence in the area and control Iraqi oil production.

READ MORE: Priti Patel warned using Navy to block asylum seekers ‘unlawful’

Britain thus “got” Palestine and Iraq and France got her mitts on Syria. We also granted the French a quarter of Iraq’s oil, just to be sociable and soften them up after we cheated them out of the city of Mosul.

Right across this region, in each of its pressure spots, Britain’s bloody and insidious interventions can be witnessed: our naive backing of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen which encouraged them in their activities in Egypt and Algeria; the insane bombing of Libya in 2011 and the bloody civil strife it brought in its wake and more refugees fleeing towards Europe. And behold our callous and inchoate withdrawal from India after ransacking it for 300 years, leading directly to one million deaths and three million displaced following partition.

The essential evil of imperialism is that the aggressor is happy to cause war, famine and death affecting millions over generations to slake the materialism and greed of its ruling elites. Britain has waded knee-deep in this wickedness.

Our profits from it are vast to an incalculable degree and yet today’s political elites recoil at the prospect of offering refuge to those tiny few remnants whose suffering we have caused. But worse than this is that we still use the same dehumanising language and attitudes as a perverse means of justifying it.

This is the brute reality of British nationalism. Those who make a false equivalence of it with Scottish nationalism are either lamentably ignorant or plain dishonest.