A NIGHTMARE immigration ordeal for a Haddington business owner and his chef now appears to be over after they were stuck in Calais and unable to return to the county together.

Craig Douglas is owner of The Victoria Inn on Court Street and hired Ricardo Rivero last September after deciding to add Spanish tapas dishes and Argentinian steaks to his menu.

The pair drove to Spain last week on a business trip to obtain new specialist products, including Spanish ham jamon iberico, which is difficult to buy in the UK.

Craig, 54, described the trip as a success in which he did “a nice bit of business”. He drove there and was intending to drive home.

But their attempt to return to the UK on the 7.40am ferry from Calais yesterday (Wednesday) was halted by UK border control officers who said that Ricardo was not a British citizen and does not have citizen status, something Craig said they applied for months ago and heard nothing about months later.

The first application, they said, was stopped due to insufficient information but they were told to reapply, which they did.

Craig received a letter from the Home Office saying that identification for Ricardo needed to be sent again, which he did. He said he had been left waiting ever since.

Ricardo was born in Argentina to Spanish parents and has dual nationality. He used his Spanish passport to apply for EU-citizen settled status in the UK in March.

It is his Spanish passport that is currently being held by the Home Office. Ricardo used his Argentinian passport to travel to Spain with Craig.

Craig said he phoned the Home Office every day to find out the latest on the application but was unable to get through.

East Lothian Courier: Ricardo Rivero (left) and Craig DouglasRicardo Rivero (left) and Craig Douglas

Ricardo, 58, who rents a house in Haddington, started working for Craig at The Victoria Inn last September. Britain was still part of the European Union at the time as Brexit had not yet taken effect.

The pair met during Craig’s time living in Spain. They became good friends and, when the businessman was looking for a Spanish chef, Ricardo was his first port of call.

Craig said: “He’s done a great job for me.

“If we decided to just go on the boat Ricardo would have been detained and that will be on his immigration record and he can never get back into the county or live here.”

He said that border control told him to either board the ferry himself and leave Ricardo behind or leave the port before he was removed adding: “I was not allowed any time to think about it, I wasn’t even allowed to use the toilet.”

He described their treatment from UK border control as “inhuman”.

Craig decided to leave the port with Ricardo rather than board the ferry solo due to his duty of care as Ricardo’s employer, driving to a nearby street and being left to find a hotel, saying “we are completely stuck and there is nowhere to go for help, we both feel completely abandoned”.

East Lothian Courier: The Victoria Inn in HaddingtonThe Victoria Inn in Haddington

Craig added that he “broke down in tears” while on the phone to his sister saying. “I feel like I have done this to him”.

He said: “I pride myself in Scotland being a caring country and to be honest I’m mortified. He’s been living in the country already; he’s been here for a year.

“I asked what we were meant to do after we left, who to contact, and [a border control officer] said that was ‘not his problem’.

“Empathy seemed to go out of the window.

“The most upsetting part was I was given two minutes to make my mind up about what I was going to do.

“They said I had two minutes before they would forcibly remove us from the port. I couldn't leave without him.”

It is thought that Ricardo's use of his Argentinian passport while the Home Office is finalising his settlement status with his Spanish passport has caused an administrative error that is preventing his return to the UK.

Craig did not think there would be any issues and was told everything was being processed.

He sought help from South Scotland MSP and Haddington and Lammermuir councillor Craig Hoy, who has previously helped him with Ricardo’s citizenship application, and Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP.

But now their nightmare ordeal might be over as it is believed that Ricardo was granted EU-citizen settled status last night (Wednesday).

The Courier has been told by Kenny MacAskill's office that UK Visa's and Immigration (UKVI) called them this morning to let them know of the news.

Once made aware of Craig and Ricardo's situation Kenny and his staff quickly got "on the case" and worked to see what they could do to help the pair.

Craig and Ricardo are in the process of filling out paperwork at Calais and have been told they will be able to travel on a ferry today (Thursday).