We're back in Rwanda fantasy-land today. The Tory immigration bill returns to Parliament. It faces the ire of Conservative rebels who claim it’s too weak.

The bill is an absurdity - not just politically and morally, but practically. It simply won’t work, nor is it legal.

It’s a cynical distraction from the real immigration problems which can be fixed. Britain even grants asylum to Rwandans, despite magically claiming the country is safe.

Even if the Rwanda scheme was legal or safe, it would do effectively nothing to reduce the enormous backlog of asylum cases.

That’s the central dysfunction with our immigration system. Conservatives allowed mountains of unprocessed claims to pile up.

Shipping folk to Rwanda and ramping up hateful rhetoric may make the Tory hard-right feel good, but it won’t stop small boats and it certainly won’t reduce the backlog.

Tens of thousands of refugees have waited for more than a year for an "initial" decision on their immigration status. Since 2018, the percentage of asylum cases decided relatively quickly - within six months - plummeted.

Respected immigration barrister Colin Yeo says that as a result “the Home Office ran out of ordinary asylum accommodation long ago and … had to resort to using hotels”.

This is where damage is really being done, both to refugees and British society. Folk placed in hotels simply rot. They aren’t allowed to work and survive on a pittance.

However, if we sort their claims, and if they can stay, then we’ve got more people paying taxes, rather than being subsidised by the tax-payer. That’s simple arithmetic.

It’s the symbolism of these hotels that’s corrosive. Britain is broken, not just our asylum system. Public services are collapsing thanks to government failure in Edinburgh and London.

Neil Mackay: How the small town of Erskine became a flashpoint for race hate

Against that backdrop, asylum hotels become a gift for the farright. When does extremism flourish? In a crisis. History teaches us that.

Economic fear and political failure allow dangerous actors to step into a vacuum. Inevitably that leads somewhere very dark.

Immigrants aren’t stealing British jobs. We’ve a job vacancy crisis, we need more workers.

It’s political failure driving economic ruin which has broken Britain. For the Tories, refugees are a convenient scapegoat. For the far right, refugees are a recruiting sergeant, a gift, a free opportunity.

The far right has latched onto asylum hotels. "Look," they say. "Your kid can’t get a house but foreigners are being put up in hotels.”

Asylum hotels are the most dangerous policy possible amid a cost-of-living crisis. It sets up an immediate us-and-them narrative.

For the last year, the far right has protested outside one asylum hotel in Erskine. Matters are now turning violent.

Anti-racist counter-protestors talk of assault by far-right demonstrators, with kicks and punches thrown and one man attacked with his own walking stick.

The Herald: Home Secretary James Cleverly with Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent BirutaHome Secretary James Cleverly with Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta (Image: PA)

The immigration lawyer Colin Yeo describes the use of asylum hotels as “politically toxic. It is also terrible for the refugees waiting interminably for a decision. Their lives are on hold, they live in destitution-level support in poor accommodation and they are prevented from working or doing anything productive.”

Yet 75% will eventually be granted refugee status. Why not allow these folk to work while their applications are processed? At the end of 2023, there were approximately 950,000 job vacancies in Britain.

Where are these vacancies? According to the UK Government, there are shortages in the NHS, the care system, agriculture, and the building trade.

If Britons aren’t taking these jobs, then let folk who want to work actually work. Let them pay taxes and become productive members of society.

Don’t, for pity’s sake, warehouse them in hotels where extremists can target them and turn them into dangerous propaganda talking points.

The housing crisis we’re in is down to the state failing to build cheap, affordable homes, as well as a boom in empty properties. There’s more than 28,000 unoccupied properties in Scotland alone.

Taking a few hundred refugees out of Scottish hotels and letting them work won’t exacerbate the housing crisis. In fact, some extra tax from working refugees will help.

Neil Mackay: Trafficked in a lorry … Scotland’s fight for refugees gets personal

But leaving them displayed in hotels feeds rage. Refugees aren’t responsible for the rotten mess Britain is in, but the voiceless can be demonised very easily.

In Ireland, a government-manufactured housing crisis was exploited by the far-right and used against refugees. It exploded into rioting in Dublin last year.

Housing emergencies have been declared in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Argyll and Bute. Fife may go next. That’s not due to a few refugees looking for a flat, but down to a lack of investment and support by Westminster and Holyrood.

Policies like Rwanda aren’t just dangerous, stupid and cruel, they simply won’t dent immigration numbers, or stop small boats.

To fix a broken system, we need to get that huge backlog addressed. Do that, and you get refugees out of these wasteful, counter-productive hotels.

Create safe routes into Britain, so legitimate refugees don’t put their lives in the hands of gangs.

Conservatives broke the asylum system and then put the blame elsewhere. Just as they did with the NHS. Small boats make a conveniently shocking image.

Neil Mackay: Scottish courts can kill off Tories' extremist Rwanda Bill

If the far right is given any means to move its message into the mainstream then disaster lies ahead.

In Germany, it’s been discovered that the far-right AfD, which is polling high at the moment, has discussed plans for mass deportations if they win power.

By setting refugees apart from society, we instantly make them "the other". By putting the "other" in hotels, at a time when there’s genuine hunger and poverty afoot, we risk making them the focus of the understandable rage which should instead be directed at politicians.

Most refugees are genuine, so most are vulnerable human beings deserving of empathy, understanding and support.

Nobody is arguing for open-door immigration. That’s absurd. What’s needed is a functioning system that’s fair. If you’ve suffered and we can shelter you, then you should be welcomed. If you’re "at it" then you’re going to be sent home.

Crucially, in our own self-interest - in the interest of keeping our battered democracy at least someway in tact - we cannot give the far-right a single advantage. That’s what asylum hotels are: a win for the extremists who hate our democracy.