WATCHING Home Secretary Suella Braverman extol the “benefits” of her proposed Illegal Migration Bill on television the other night, I couldn’t help thinking back to a day in 2015.

It was then on the Greek island of Kos that I met an Iraqi man called Ali Chadan.

Long before our encounter, Ali had watched his wife die and feared for his children as the barbaric fighters of the Islamic State (IS) group drew ever closer to the district in which they lived.

It was at that moment that he decided, as any decent father would, that the time had come to spirit his loved ones to safety and make the journey to Europe where he would join his mother and sister already settled in Switzerland.

Instead, just a few weeks later having set out from Turkey he found himself along with his children and 40 other refugees from Syria and Iraq alone at night in the freezing waters of the Aegean Sea after the rubber boat into which they had been crammed foundered in the waves.

For the next two hours, Ali trod water, his three youngsters clinging to him for dear life. A fourth and eldest child still only 10 years old had struck out for shore on his father’s orders, a swim that would save his own life. During that interminable time in the water, Ali watched helplessly as his youngest boy Hussein – only six years old – drifted off in the night sea.

As if this was not horror enough, later after struggling on to the beach frozen and exhausted with his two daughters, nine-year-old Hawra and youngest child four-year-old Zainab, he would have to confront the fact that the ordeal had proved too much for Zainab who died shortly afterwards.

Now just ask yourself these questions. What person would make such a dangerous undertaking without real reason? What must it be like to watch your child slip away from your grasp in the ocean never to be seen again? What goes through your head when a short time later another of your children dies from heart failure before your eyes on a beach?

When we met, I was accompanying Ali with the help of some local boat owners to scour the shoreline looking for some sign, anything, of his missing son.

“It’s not that he expects to find the boy, just that he feels a sense of guilt that he couldn’t save him and cannot leave without at least looking for Hussein’s body,” one of the volunteers with us told me discreetly that day.

To this moment, I still cannot begin to imagine what Ali Chadan went through, and most likely is still going through, which takes me back to Braverman, Rishi Sunak and their obscene – for that’s what it is – Stop the Boats campaign and Illegal Migration Bill.

On the face of it stopping the boats which are often run by mercenary traffickers would be a good thing depriving them of their income and ensuring that those escaping war or persecution need not run the risk of such perilous crossings, in this case, the English Channel.

But the problem is that to date there are few other routes for people to use when fleeing to claim asylum in Britain. The UK Government talks of introducing new safe routes but says it must first fix the small-boats problem, something that refugee groups say is totally the wrong way round.

Whenever put on the spot, Braverman is unable to say how someone with links to the UK fleeing persecution could come to the UK via a safe and legal route. In fact, appearing before a parliamentary select committee last year she could not cite a single “safe and legal” route that a 16-year-old African boy fleeing danger could take to the UK.

No one doubts that there are predatory criminals prepared to let people drown for profit, as was the case with Ali Chadan and his family.

But these traffickers that Braverman obsesses about are not the cause of the problem, they are the result of an asylum system that feeds their profits.

Be it deportations to Rwanda, proposals to “streamline” the Modern Slavery Act so it cannot be “abused” or an annual cap on the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country all of these Tory policies speak for themselves.

It’s also in the language that Braverman uses talking as she does about an “invasion” of Britain’s southern coast and how she is on the side of “the law-abiding patriotic majority” who according to the Home Secretary, “have said enough is enough”.

Only yesterday she was quoted as saying ludicrously that there are 100 million people displaced around the world, and “likely billions more eager to come here if possible”.

As the Tory peer Gavin Barwell was even forced to admit, this is patent nonsense and is “resorting to the language of extremists”.

BUT all this blaming of the foreigner, the migrant, the outsider, serves another Tory purpose. Such ploys and language help shift attention away from those really to blame for the UK’s ills. These predators and profiteers are the real villains of the piece here.

Tax dodgers and poverty wage-paying bosses, a cosy and frankly quite often corrupt relationship between government and big business – though nothing new in itself – has become the leitmotif and raison d’être for the likes of Sunak, Braverman and those they really represent.

If there’s one thing the so-called cost of living crisis tells us it’s not just about the grim familiarity of its victims but what it again confirms about those who are its architects and beneficiaries.

Right now we are surrounded in the UK by Tory politicians whose policies are simply about promoting greater wealth and power for those at the top. Under such people, the political landscape feels like an eerily unregulated, ungoverned place – unless you happen to be part of the “elite” that stands to benefit.

And that’s where the Illegal Migration Bill helps. Look over there, it’s those damn foreigners, those freeloaders sneaking into good old Britannia that we need to keep an eye on, goes the prevailing Tory message behind its smokescreen.

You can expect to hear that “Stop the Boats” mantra a lot more from the likes of Braverman and Sunak in the weeks and months ahead. For while the message is undoubtedly inhumane, it’s also the perfect diversion and that’s just what the Tories want right now.