The TV star, 51, traveled to Poland to visit a refugee camp last week and spoke to families fleeing the war for her new podcast series called Ukraine’s Hidden Voices.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain following the trip, Holden criticized Home Secretary Priti Patel over the amount of paperwork refugees must fill in to enter Britain.
Speaking about the visit with the Red Cross to Poland, Holden told GMB: “I went to the biggest humanitarian center which is a disused Tesco, these people sit next to the country flag they think they want to live in.
“They all see it as a temporary measure before they return to their mother land. It’s a very efficient service being run there by everyone.
“There was a Union Jack flag there but 35 pages of paperwork, of which the first five questions are asking them their financial situation and mortgage situation which is ridiculous when they only have a bag of belongings with them.”
More than 150,000 people had registered their interest in the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, but concerns have been raised about how it will work in practice.
The program aims to match refugees with individuals, charities and other organizations who can provide accommodation for at least six months.
But Holden fears many Ukrainians will not be able to take advantage of the scheme due to the amount of paperwork involved.
She said: “So, you know, Priti Patel’s winning, we’re not going to be getting many people coming into our country, despite the fact 150,000 people have volunteered to open up their homes.
“So I felt quite cross about that.”
Speaking about the paperwork refugees must complete prior to being granted entry to the UK, Holden said: “We’re all British, we were having a look, you know, my team and I were all looking through the paperwork going ‘you’d have a job to fill out these forms’, and we are British, so it is an absolutely appalling situation.”
She added: “But obviously, she doesn’t want immigrants does she, Priti?”
Earlier in the programme, Holden explained that her motivation for launching her podcast originally came from an Instagram message she received from a mother in Ukraine who had been sheltering in a car park in Kyiv.
After speaking to families affected by the war, Holden decided to travel to Poland to visit those who had fled Ukraine.
She said: “The reason I went out there was because there was an American volunteer that we spoke to on our podcast who said I should go out there and see it for myself and I thought, you know what, I’m talking to these people who are clearly distressed, very displaced, bewildered by the entire situation, from the comfort of Heart studios, and I should just go out there really and see it for myself and then that’s exactly what I did.”
On her return to the UK, Holden said she spoke candidly to her two daughters about the trip.
“I just came home and I said to my own children, I can’t imagine what you and I would pack into a bag, how we would feel about leaving daddy behind, and then have to make a snap decision about what country we then want to go and live in,” she said.
She added: “I mean, it’s just a horrendous situation for them all.”
Following Holden’s interview, GMB presenter Martin Lewis read out a statement on air from the government which said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure those fleeing horrific persecution in Ukraine can find safety in the UK and our Homes for Ukraine scheme now allows those without family connections to come here.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.