I CAN’T stop thinking about Priti Patel’s use of the word “shameful” to describe migrants washed ashore on flimsy dinghies at Dover over this past year. Four thousand asylum seekers have crossed the English Channel in 2020, on small boats, on treacherous and crowded waters and often in extreme conditions.

But Patel wasn’t talking the extremity faced by fellow human beings. She was spouting about the figures being so high, with the unspoken subtext that her own job might be in jeopardy. These “figures” are in fact men, women and child refugees in search of protection in a peaceful nation. What does she find so revolting about their plight and why?

“Shameful” is such a loaded word. It implies blame, dishonour and disgrace. It implies being scolded, chided and disdained. It’s certainly not the right word to describe what these people are doing, risking life and limb to make the perilous journey across the Channel, escaping utter impoverishment, violence and possible death in their own countries to find safe haven in the UK. The dinghies that arrived last week were full of children – are they to feel “shame” for their actions, too? Are they to feel filled with self-hate at their hope of a better existence, to be re-united with family, to follow their parents’ desperate bid for security?

But still Patel ploughs on. She plans to make this route “unviable”, intercepting boats and returning those attempting to make the crossing from France as well as stopping these asylum seekers from leaving in the first place.

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

In order to carry out her orders she has appointed a “clandestine Channel threat commander”, which is the over-the-top title for what amounts to a trumped-up maritime bouncer. Operation Overlord this is not, despite the squadron of RAF Atlas C.1s now swooping over the Strait of Dover at 450ft. Of course,

as a Brexiteer, Patel has, at best, a flimsy grip on reality. She can’t cut the UK off from the rest of Europe and then deliver back unwanted asylum seekers to the point of departure in a country with which we’ve just severed ties.

Or as immigration barrister Colin Yeo reminds her: “The Royal Navy cannot simply enter French waters without an agreement to return migrants crossing the Channel.” He points out that because of the UK Government’s preference for a hard Brexit, the current Dublin Regulation, which outlines returns arrangements between Britain and France, will cease to exist from January 1, 2021.

Oh dear. Be careful what you wish for, Ms Patel. “Taking back control” has never been so last year. It looks like this clandestine Channel threat commander will be stuck “fighting them on the beaches” rather than at sea. And if the Navy was to take to the water, it wouldn’t be out there in a defence capacity, as that would breach international law. In yet another ironic twist to Patel’s grimy grandstanding, if this commander was in charge of a Navy vessel that came across a vulnerable raft of refugees in the Channel, he would be obliged to rescue a vessel in distress and take these vulnerable people to a safe destination, ie Dover! It couldn’t be France because no reciprocal agreement has been put in place as yet!

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

Another thorn in Patel’s heavy-handed response is the fact that she can’t chide refugees from making unsafe journeys to old Blighty when the scheme for making safe journeys was suspended by her Government earlier this year. What a clusterbourach she has got herself into.

The “Faragification” of Westminster politics continues apace and it’s an unedifying sight. It is what happens when your ideas lack rationality or humanity and when saloon bar evening slogans meet the hard reality of the light of day.

Would we be any better? One hopeful straw in the wind was Monday’s Greenock Telegraph front page which featured a refugee family thanking the community for its warm reception. As local councillor Chris McEleny tweeted: “Inverclyde opens its arms to the world. Refugees are welcome and are as much a part of our community as anyone”. If only Priti Patel shared such a sentiment.

It’s not even a year since the horrific incident when the bodies of 39 refugees fleeing Vietnam were discovered in a refrigerated lorry in an industrial park in Essex. A tomb to man’s inhumanity to man and a global failure to protect the world’s vulnerable citizens through their terrifying ordeal across borders at the hands of unscrupulous people-smugglers.

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

Today there is a UK scheduled charter removal flight to return refugees to France and possibly Germany. No doubt Patel and her team will be making a big noise about this to show how they are getting “tough” on these people.

But really, it’s just another smokescreen, another excuse for not addressing the fundamentals of a crisis that will continue from year to year. Because anyone with a shred of humanity and basic decency knows being hostile to desperate people in fear of their lives is no answer.

They will keep coming because they have no choice as they are escaping horror. They are also spurred onwards by the most powerful human emotion of all – hope. Ironically their “City upon a Hill” destination is promoted by the online copy of Fleet Street, suggesting the “soft touch” UK is a promised land of milk and honey.

But we have a choice. We can do so much better than this UK Government’s noisy and callous hostile immigration Groundhog Day. Its system is broken, no matter how much it pushes the same failed response over and over again. It is her Government which is the “unviable” and it is Patel who should be left with nothing but her own shame on which to gnaw.