WE all have our own stories. We all have our own backgrounds and our own baggage. We are the sum of our experiences and the products of our environments. Our world can be one full of beauty, joy and opportunity. But it can also be a dark place.

There are millions of people who have had to endure unimaginable pain and suffering purely as a result of the circumstances of their birth.

Nobody chooses to be born into a conflict or a disaster zone. Nor do they choose for everything to be taken away from them by natural disasters or civil war.

Nobody with options would choose to travel hundreds of miles, often on foot and at huge personal risk, or to get into a flimsy and dangerous dinghy and risk the elements in harsh, cold and unforgiving waters.

As the poet Warsan Shire so powerfully wrote “nobody puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”.

“Stop the boats.” These were the words on the podium from which the Prime Minister announced his latest assault on the rights and wellbeing of refugees.

Like “take back control” or “get Brexit done” before it, it was a simplistic three-word slogan that is designed to remove nuance and inflame passions.

At heart, this isn’t a question about boats. It’s a question about people and how they are treated.

For the scores of people who have drowned making the crossing, the Channel has been a graveyard.

Those that manage to make it to the UK are met with the full force of the state and all the hostility it can muster. Dawn raids, cramped detention centres and prolonged periods in remote hotels have become all too regular for people who have fled from war and trauma.

None of this brutality and dehumanisation is an accident. It is done on purpose, and it is central to the Home Office and its worldview.

The latest announcement would, in effect, criminalise the very act of seeking asylum. The Prime Minister’s speech was the day before International Women’s Day (IWD). What should have been a celebration of the lives and achievements of women around the world was happening in the shadow of one of the most divisive and racist pieces of legislation for years.

This year’s IWD had a particular focus on embracing equity and on understanding that we all face different circumstances and starting points. But how can there be equity in a system that disproportionately punishes some of the most vulnerable women in the world?

If the Prime Minister’s policies come to be, then these women will lose their rights to claim asylum and their modern slavery protections.

This is not the country that we should be.

The Scotland that I want us to build is one that offers safe routes and solidarity to our friends and sisters around the world.

It is one with a progressive and humane system that recognises the pain, the suffering and the experiences that so many have endured and the perfectly normal human desire to rebuild and strive for better for themselves and those they love.

Freedom of movement can’t only be the preserve of the global north.

I have moved before. I spent 20 years in New York City. As a white woman from an English-speaking country, I did not have to face any of the repressive or racist structures that refugees come up against.

Nor was I forced to risk my life, face detention or endure the humiliation and demonisation that is so central to the Home Office and its hostile environment.

There are real alternatives to the Home Office approach. We can choose to have an asylum system that makes timely decisions on humane criteria, allows people to work whilst waiting for their claims to be decided and houses people in our communities and gives them a real grounding and compassion.

Welcoming refugees and migrant communities is not just the right thing to do morally. It would benefit our communities and our economy.

With the Scottish Fiscal Commission projecting that our population will fall by nearly 900,000 – a drop of 16% – between 2022 and 2072, depopulation isn’t a matter of if as much as when.

The impact will be particularly acute in the rural and island communities that I represent. If we are to rebuild our economy through a just transition, we need the people and skills to do it.

It was no less than Mahatma Gandi who said that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. That is just as true today.

There is nothing natural or inevitable about poverty and hardship in a world that has more than enough money and resources to offer safety, comfort and prosperity to everyone.

When we look back at the ways in which people were treated in years gone by, we often do so in horror at the systemic violence and the lack of humanity. I am sure that future historians will do the same about our age and the system and the cruelty that is being inflicted.