IT is hard to think of anything more tragic than the death of Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, the 24-year-old Kurdish bride-to-be from northern Iraq who was drowned last week when the flimsy dinghy in which she was trying to cross the English Channel sank beneath her.

Maryam had been attempting for some time to rejoin her prospective husband, Karzan Assad, who makes his living as a barber in Portsmouth. There it was her ambition to set up her own hair and nail salon, and to live happily ever after.

It was the modest ambition of a respectable young lady liked by everybody and happy to follow the customs of her people without bothering anybody else. She was just right for Karzan, who had lived in the UK for 14 years but still wanted a Kurdish wife. It would, of course, be an arranged marriage. He travelled home to the city of Irbil to find a suitable candidate, and he proposed successfully to her earlier this year.

Then he returned to Portsmouth and set about the tortuous task of arranging for her to follow him. She set out westwards under her own steam, travelling by way of Turkey and Italy, Germany and France. Karzan had procured for her a tourist visa, by paying $20,000 to somebody in the street outside the Italian consulate in Irbil.

READ MORE: The UK Government cannot both mourn refugees and enact its cruel policies

Finally her luck ran out. From France she applied twice for a tourist visa to the UK, but was turned down. In such discouraging circumstances, with limited funds and no knowledge of any local language, what does a lonely single woman do?

Last week she went down to a beach and paid $3000 for a nighttime passage across the Channel. Once in the dinghy she phoned Karzan on her mobile, and at first everything seemed fine. But then she reported that the vessel was taking on water, and that the passengers were trying to bail it out with pots. She said they appealed for help to the coastguards. But rescue never came, and 27 people on board drowned.

I have recounted this heart-breaking story right through just to show how easy it was for an innocent victim to advance each of those steps towards her doom. The only real contact she had with any officialdom took the shape of application and rejection. Warnings about the dangers from the UK side had no effect simply because they didn’t get through, and in any case ran entirely contrary to the expectations and information the refugees had to hand.

More than a year ago I wrote in this column about the prospective swarming of boat people into UK waters, perhaps with a tragic death toll among the hapless refugees. The Government in London has had 12 months for some sort of counter-measures, but still could work out no effective idea of how to deal with the threat. At the time the boats were carrying people at the rate of less than 4000 a year. Now the figure has increased five times over.

The failure of policy-making has not inspired in the Government any ambition to do better. Far and away the main influence on official thinking remains the English fury, the popular prejudice against foreigners, and the very idea of a steadily more multicultural UK. For a long time the ruling class felt

rather ashamed that such elements existed within the nation, and blamed it all on renegades such as Nigel Farage. Today it is not only accepted in the highest circles but even encouraged.

In practice the bounds of consultation have been still more tightly drawn. The UK contains four nations but its government insists that only one of them, the English nation, is properly worthy of attention to its interests and opinions while the policy-making process for migration goes on. Scotland and Northern Ireland have been dragged along on Brexit against their will. But nobody in Whitehall thinks its effects on them, except in the special case of the deep-sea fishermen, should be the subject of any separate consideration.

IN fact, even England is far from united in these matters. Looking out across the North Sea, resurgent businessmen keep their eyes peeled. They hope to spot workers, in any legal or illegal guise, making their way over here in search of a job. These will even then need visas, whether to work on a farm, in a restaurant, as a cleaner or in a care home. The paperwork seems excessive, and prospective employers wish they could get by without it, all on the quiet.

By contrast, down along the English Channel local MPs howl in horror as boatloads of similar refugees stagger ashore. Drenched and freezing, they still give V-signs in their jubilation at the arrival. Overjoyed to reach dry land again, they are evidently unaware that no warm welcome awaits them. Though they want useful jobs too, they have never heard there are now Brits more eager to send them empty-handed back to the bleak and barren European shore. They soon find out.

Citizens of the green and pleasant land stretching back from the beaches may have a reputation for sturdy independence in their ways, but this internal contradiction is absurd: an economy short of labour turns recruits to its workforce away. The Prime Minister might have backed immigrants while he was Mayor of London – and needed them.

READ MORE: ‘The asylum system is evil ... nobody cares about you’: Harnet’s 16 years of living hell

Now he seems to spend half his time trying to stop them or, if they land, to make them sorry they ever left home.

At least all this has laid down a crystal-clear line for the government of Scotland to follow if ever Boris should condescend to let a policy be framed for the whole UK rather than just the part of it he happens to represent. Before we in Scotland can make our own full potential contribution to the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, we must do something about the labour shortage we suffer.

A reason Scotland has a lower employment rate than England is because we have a higher proportion of our population in retirement, or otherwise excluded from the workforce. We need a way of compensating for this if we are to recover from the pandemic at the same rate.

One obvious remedy is immigration. In the stricken hospitality industry, for example, hotels and pubs are unable to reopen, or are restricted in their reopening, because they cannot find staff to serve their customers. The UK Government, which holds back potential workers from their potential jobs, is largely to blame for this. It would be difficult to find a better example of what can happen to a country ruled by people as ignorant of and hostile to its interests as Scotland is today.