SHE was just seven years old. Her whole life ahead of her. And now she’s dead, drowned in the English Channel last Tuesday when an inflatable boat overcrowded with desperate people capsized.

Four others perished too. This is the third fatal incident involving people trying the cross the channel in small boats this year. It’s a deadly business.

Hours earlier, the UK Parliament passed the Tory government’s Rwanda Bill after more than four months of wrangling. This bill purports to stop the dangerous channel crossings by deterring people with the threat of deportation to Rwanda should they try to do so. It will do nothing of the kind.

It is a horrific piece of legislation which should shame all those who voted for it and which will be a stain on the UK’s reputation as a liberal democratic country. Already the United Nations has said it is incompatible with the Refugee Convention and asked for it to be reviewed.

Central to the bill is the declaration that Rwanda is a safe country. This is in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment last year that it was not, and that therefore people seeking protection and asylum should not be sent there.

The Tories’ position is that Rwanda is safe because they say it is. In much the same way last year’s Illegal Migration Act made it illegal to cross the Channel in a small boat, even though it had been perfectly legal up to then. And then they said that because people had reached the UK illegally, they no longer had any rights to claim asylum.

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This is in contravention of international law, but no matter according to the Tories. They are legislating to change reality, to say black is white, bad is good. They are creating a twisted parallel existence which is far away from the international humanitarian law that the countries of the world adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War.

In the weeks ahead, the number of small boat crossings will go up as the weather improves. But it will still be very dangerous. So, ask yourself this: Why would the parents of that seven-year-old girl take the risk they did? Why will others? Why will they give every penny they have to smugglers and squeeze into dangerously overcrowded dinghies to risk death to get here?

The answer is simple. The terror that lies ahead of them is much less than the terror they left behind. These people are fleeing persecution from places where the basic rights we enjoy do not exist. Where women are locked up for dressing as they please, where gay men are thrown off the top of high buildings, where holding an alternative view or criticising the government gets you tortured and detained.

The people in those small boats are trying to find a better life for themselves and their children. They are escaping tyranny and asking for our help. In response, we have declared them criminals.

If the threat of death is not going to act as a deterrent, why on earth would anyone think that the threat of being deported to Rwanda will be? That is the central stupidity of this proposed scheme which involves the possible deportation of just a few hundred people.

Having struggled across a continent, faced down every adversity, made it this far, it is ridiculous to think that anyone would not go the final 20 miles because of a five-to-10 per cent chance they might be sent to Rwanda.

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The Government voted down every attempt to add some compassion to its proposals. Resisting, for instance, the notion that Afghans who had served alongside British forces and were now fleeing the Taliban might be exempted.

The Tories are determined to weaponise immigration as a means to distract people from their abysmal failures as the election looms. It is a desperate and sordid attempt to demonise some of the world’s most vulnerable people for their own political ends. They need to be challenged.

There never used to be small boat crossings. In 2018, fewer than 300 crossed for the whole year. So what happened? Are more people trying to claim asylum in the UK? Are we really facing some sort of dramatic rise in migration that might provide evidence for the wild Tory claims of invasion and swamping? No, we are not.

The only reason why we have people trying to come here in small boats – in a fashion now officially illegal – is that the Government has closed down almost every legal means of people claiming asylum in the UK.

The Government claims it wants to disrupt the organised criminal gangs behind the people-smuggling. Really? The truth is it was this government that created the business model for these gangs, that gave them the opportunity. Without these Tory policies, the gangs would be nowhere.

We must also demand a sense of perspective against the claims that the number of migrants trying to get here represent some sort of existential threat to the survival of the country. We’ve all heard the sort of rubbish, “Britain is full up”, “any more will put the country under”.

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What nonsense. Last year a little less than 30,000 made the journey, about 82 people a day. That’s 82 people arriving on a big island where close to 68 million people live. About two-thirds of those claiming asylum in the UK were granted protection. At this rate, we would need small boat crossings at the current level to continue for 50 years in order for numbers to reach one million people.

Immigration is a good thing. Throughout history, the inward migration of people has been a positive benefit to those countries they call home. Today’s migrants in the main are young, fit, educated, and motivated, many with skills that would be of enormous advantage to us. Far from being a drain on our economy, they would be a positive addition to it.

We can only hope that a new government will roll back on the right-wing xenophobia which now underpins immigration policy. Certainly, that is what the SNP will be pressing it to do.

And as we promote our prospectus for an independent Scotland, we will ensure it encourages people to make our country their new home.

We live in a dangerous world. War, famine, climate catastrophe and political repression are drivers for more people to move for a better life than ever before. And unlike a generation ago, everyone can now access crucial information on their smartphones.

If we are to create a stable and sustainable world and ensure the survival of our species, these problems will need to be tackled at source.

But in the meantime, the UK has a moral and legal responsibility to play its part in providing sanctuary and support for the most vulnerable people on Earth.

Trying to get out of that responsibility by offloading it to Rwanda is reprehensible.

We must re-establish safe and legal routes by which people can apply for asylum. We must deal with their claims efficiently. This could be easily done by switching the millions spent on detaining people with pending applications to provide new trained staff to deal with their cases.

And in the meantime, let applicants work, earn, and pay tax while they are waiting.

Doing that would save money, treat people fairly and create a greater degree of social cohesion in our communities and internationally. And it certainly wouldn’t allow the Tories to scapegoat immigrants and mobilise prejudice for political advantage.