It seems almost incredible the British government should have got itself into this situation, shaming the country. In the middle of a European war displacing millions of people, the UK has taken only a few hundred and left thousands of others scrambling around to get appointments and fill out forms.

Poland has taken a million souls and provided them with shelter. It may take many more. Across Europe a humanitarian effort unseen in scale since 1945 is underway.

Ukraine is not a member of the EU. Nonetheless, the EU has waived visa requirements to help fellow Europeans fleeing war. Britain hasn’t.

How on earth did the Home Secretary engineer this mess?

“She had months to prepare for this properly and didn’t,” says a senior Whitehall source.

Since late last year British intelligence, US intelligence and the UK and US governments have been saying an invasion of Ukraine is coming. Obviously, when it happened that would create a refugee crisis. 

Yet in a Home Office preoccupied with fighting a losing battle to control the flow of illegal migrants across the channel, it was decided to adapt existing visa processes, and to fall back on concerns about “security”. There have been briefings that espionage is a concern, and the Russians might disguise their agents as refugees.

This overlooks the blunt reality that Russian operatives are, let’s face it, likely already here. And if they want more they have plenty of other means of getting them through the UK’s porous border and virtually non-existent coastal defences.

“I’m afraid the Home Secretary and her department are revealed as being not fit for purpose, again,” says a Tory MP.

But, say government insiders, this is not purely on the Home Office. Number 10 is obsessed with opinion polling and rebuilding support among the voters Boris lost during Partygate. Some of those voters are worried about unlimited immigration, and while they are doubtless sympathetic to the Ukrainians they may be wary of too many (whatever that means) coming here rather than other countries.

Patel will know all this, and, say insiders, it has been a factor in the formulation of the policy.

In a TV interview the PM has used the word control, Britain must have control he says, an echo of the Brexit campaign and signal to voters that he is mindful of their concerns.

Such is the backlash, it seems the policy will have to be changed as it will not survive contact with more of the harrowing images from the war zone.