TWO sets of figures resonated this last week. One was the reputed 750 people aboard a fishing boat from Libya to Italy which sank off Greece.

There are many ­questions about the how of this tragedy, not least since Greece, like our own dear UK, has become a hostile ­environment for those seeking sanctuary.

So there are at least two versions of who was responsible for the rescue not ­being ­attempted at the first evidence of distress. What we do know is that the death toll will be horrendous and that there were no women and children among the known ­survivors since they were all stuck below deck.

The bottom line is seemingly hundreds of desperate people lost their lives attempting to flee a country where we sent troops and with whom we promised to stand shoulder to shoulder before scarpering when post-Gaddafi Libya became embroiled in civil wars and terrorism.

(The then gung ho prime minister, David Cameron, declined to give retrospective evidence to a Tory-led foreign affairs select committee which gave a damning account of our activities before and after.)

The second tally to hit some modest ­headlines, was the latest report from the United Nations Commissioner for ­Refugees. His sobering arithmetic was that there were now 110 million forcibly displaced ­refugees, up some 19m from last year. Almost all from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan.

About a third of that number fled their country altogether seeking protection ­elsewhere, but twice as many were still in their homeland, rendered homeless and peripatetic by conflict.

The commissioner, Filippo Grandi, ­rejected the popular mythology that all of them headed for Western Europe or ­Scandinavia. Some 70%, he said, just went to the country next door in the hope of ­being able to return to their own land.

Which is just as well, as countries like the UK are hardly rolling out the ­welcome mat. No “give me your poor, tired ­huddled ­masses yearning to breathe free” kind of rhetoric in the Home Office these ­malevolent days.

Or as Senor Grandi had it, all of this “is met increasingly with a more hostile ­environment, especially when it comes to refugees.”

“So, we see pushbacks. We see ­tougher and tougher immigration or refugee ­admission rules,” he said. “We see in many countries a criminalisation of ­immigrants and refugees, blaming them for everything that has happened and so forth.”

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Too true. Compared with the torrent of people seeking asylum, the UK takes a trickle. Stopping the boats is actually one of Rishi Sunak’s big five election ­pledges, when stopping the ­traffickers would seem rather more pertinent than victim ­blaming.

Not least from a ­government where families of the ­current and ­previous home secretaries were ­themselves ­economic migrants. As indeed were the PM’s own antecedents.

The alibi is always “breaking the business model” of the traffickers when ministers are quizzed. The best route to which would seem to be stopping them at source rather than the fragile craft for which they charge desperate folk eye-watering sums.

When the more rabid media talk about the cost of hotels for those whose asylum requests are yet to be decided, we’re not exactly talking the Ritz. Whole families get stuck in rooms in dodgy ­accommodation sometimes for years whilst unable by ­regulation to earn a ­living to sustain themselves.

For the real problem lies in the fact that the Home Office has allowed a massive backlog of claims to accumulate and is only now recruiting new staff to deal with them. Hopefully, they take time to train them properly and don’t let them loose on what are, by definition, immensely ­complex case histories.

If your house has disappeared thanks to a missile strike or an earthquake, you’re unlikely to have a full set of ­documentation to hand.

The latest alibi is that there are too many single men from countries like ­Albania trying to get into the UK, so we’ve been sending lots of them straight back whence they came.

Where such single men wind up in “temporary” accommodation, they might find hostile mobs outside their window, whipped up into an anti-migrant frenzy by ill-informed media misinformation.

Naturally, we failed to expel all those Russian oligarchs who bought up swathes of London, and used that city’s financial services “rules” to launder ­money which they had accrued through less than savoury sources. One of them, the son of a spymaster, was given a peerage by Boris Johnson. Now that’s what I call a welcome.

Not for them the joys of being stuck in a rusting barge, or dumped on a Rwanda-bound plane. Owners of bulging wallets will not find themselves deported any time soon.

Not the least of the ironies of our UK migration “policy” is that some southern counties who are genuinely overstretched bear the brunt, whilst employers in other regions and nations are crying out for more visas for seasonal workers.

The much repeated ministerial ­mantra that we should be training up our own rather falls down when employers ­report that Brits are not in the market for fruit picking for half the year for relative ­pennies. Or have a burning desire to ­retrain as an apprentice in an abattoir.

When a huge number of working ­families are already at breaking point from food and energy costs and ­accessing record levels of food bank donations, this does not seem quite the moment to urge them to think about a new less well-paid “career”. But when you have a UK ­Government run by very rich people, it’s likely to be accompanied by a gross failure of imagination. Let them eat cake!

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Something else happened last week which got rather overshadowed by ­headline-grabbing Westminster events. The UK Government chose an ­increasingly popular, backstairs route to amend the Public Order Act to restrict even further the basic right of public ­protest.

They used what’s known in parliamentary speak as a Statutory Instrument to amend the existing act which meant that there would be no need for the tedious business of having a parliamentary debate about it. Not content with criminalising migrants, we’re now in the business of sticking protesters in the pokey.

This parliamentary sleight of hand might have been just about tolerable in mid ­pandemic when swift decisions were of the essence. Using it regularly to ­frustrate the House of Commons is ­criminal. Not that I’m holding my breath for a ­rebuke from a pretty useless Speaker.

One Green peer in the Lords, ­Jenny Jones, was sufficiently enraged to put forward a so-called “fatal motion” which would have stopped the Cabinet ­Secretary in full flight.

As she memorably put it: “What is the point of Parliament if a minister can just ignore the outcome of debates and votes by imposing draconian laws on the ­public?”

Precisely. The Labour peers, on the ­instructions of their party leader, ­abstained, and the motion failed. The Labour peer charged with defending the indefensible babbled on about respecting the way parliament is run. I refer him to Ms Jones’s quote.

We are witnessing nothing less than the systematic destruction of the rights of the population to influence public policy without risking arrest, and of the Commons to hold the government to account by means of debate and legislative scrutiny.

A political journalist, Ian Dunt, has ­written a new book called How ­Westminster Works ... And Why It Doesn’t. It goes into rather more detail than I can, as to how the “Mother of ­Parliaments” is increasingly being ­uncoupled from the foundation blocks of our political ­traditions.

We may be in the drying days of this ­miserable Conservative administration, but be in no doubt that there is still time to lay waste to human rights and ­parliamentary democracy.