Bend it like Beckham star claims she's 'in tears daily' over Ukraine war

Juliet Stevenson and her husband have recently welcomed a Ukrainian mother and her six-year-old daughter into their house

Published Last updated

Bend it like Beckham star Juliet Stevenson says she is moved to tears daily over the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, Ms Stevenson and her husband welcomed a Ukrainian mother and her six-year-old daughter into one of their adult children’s bedrooms.

But despite the positivity surrounding her move, Ms Stevenson has hit out at the Government’s reformed immigration Bill, describing it as “extremely harsh and cruel".

The reinstated Nationality and Borders Bill makes it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission rather than via a designated scheme or route.

Juliet Stevenson
Juliet Stevenson

Those who break the rules could face a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Ms Stevenson said: “I think it is a Bill that entirely lacks compassion or justice and fairness, and I think it’s not at all in step with what the British people are feeling at the moment.

“There’s been this amazing outpouring of agonised concern about what people are going through in Ukraine, and people in this country have opened up their hearts and their homes, there’s hundreds of thousands of people offering refuge in our own homes to Ukrainian refugees, and this Bill seeks to really criminalise the whole process of seeking asylum."

The actress is instead backing changes to the Bill called for by Together With Refugees, a coalition of almost 500 national and local charities across the UK.

It wants the UK to commit to resettle at least 10,000 refugees every year, and to scrap the rule which punishes refugees who have not arrived in the country through official routes.

It also wants to see immediate measures to enable Ukrainian refugees to get to the UK safely without having to apply for visas first.

Ms Stevenson added: “What we have to remember is that it is a legal right in international law to seek asylum.

“We’ve seen nightly, every day on our screens, what the people of Ukraine, for example, are enduring, their homes being bombed, their schools, their hospitals – it’s unthinkable.

Ukrainians are continuing to flee the invasion
Ukrainians are continuing to flee the invasion

“Well, that’s also going on in other places in the world, which we don’t see so often on our screen. So I think that this Bill is extremely harsh and cruel.”

“Just get people out of danger. Let them come here… then we can do the paperwork and the bureaucracy, but to make them go through all this while they’re trying to flee from danger, or they’re living in very, very difficult conditions in ‘nowhere land’, as it were, on the move, it’s so cruel, it’s so brutal.

“And I don’t believe that’s the national identity, I don’t think that’s who we are. I think we’re a decent, more decent lot, and I think that it matters to people to feel they can hold their heads up in the international community and say: ‘Yeah, we did our bit.’"

The mother and her daughter were introduced to Ms Stevenson through one of the actresses friends and arrived on a tourist visa several weeks ago.

Ms Stevenson, who played Paula Paxton in Bend it Like Beckham, said the daughter “adores” the family dog, but both of them desperately want to return to Kyiv to be reunited with the husband and father.

She added: “Every time she (the mother) checks her phone, she’s checking to see whether he’s alive.

“I check my phone to see if I’ve got a new email, or how many likes I’ve got on Instagram.

“They make me cry every day because they’re so courageous, and they want to help and they want to cook and they’re just really lovely, lovely people, and they’re just like us.

“I just think, oh my god, you know, what would it be like, it could so easily be the other way around.”