A FAMILY friend of an American couple involved in a battle with the Home Office over retrospective visa rule changes has hit out at the “discourteous and horrific way” public servants have treated them.

Russell and Ellen Felber made their home in Inverness six years ago and transformed the Torridon Guest House into an award-winning establishment, investing about £400,000 in the process.

They became active in the community, with Ellen attending bell-ringing activities at Inverness Cathedral.

Fellow bell-ringer Ted Venn, from Tain, Ross-shire, said he – like many others – had written to various bodies supporting the couple’s application to remain in the UK.

He told The National: “Despite a constant flow of letters to politicians and the Home Office, the matter remains unresolved.

“All attempts to have a most unfair application of immigration regulations reversed have been met with obstruction, apathy and a blandness that smacks of an arrogant and dictatorial stance by those responsible for immigration.

Theresa May was Home Secretary when the regulations were changed. I have written to her, as well as to Amber Rudd, who replaced her at the Home Office, but all to no avail.”

Venn also wrote to local MPs and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, but the Scottish Government was powerless to intervene given that immigration is a reserved matter.

“Recently I have written to Sir Vince Cable to ask him to raise questions in the House of Commons as leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. Initially the request was rebuffed, as I was not a constituent. A second letter to Sir Vince remains to be answered,” said Venn.

“Last June, as you know, a judicial review was held to consider whether the Home Office and its Immigration Service had acted properly.

“Surprise, surprise, the judicial review found that the Home Office had acted correctly, conveniently overlooking the retrospective nature of the change, so that it was found that officials had correctly interpreted and followed the regulations as they currently stood.

“As far as I am aware, the issue of an unfair retrospective application of the regulations has not been taken into account.”

He said the process had been dragging on for almost two years, during which time the Felbers had suffered ill health.

He added that they had worked hard running the business, paid their taxes and had never claimed benefit, all of which had been ignored.

“This prolonged saga is not acceptable, and it does not place the UK well in the eyes of the world,” he said. “It makes me ashamed of being British. Such unjust treatment of American nationals is surely going to reflect badly on the UK from the other side of the Atlantic.

“Whilst the UK is an island nation with a limited ability to be able to provide for all who wish to settle in a civilised and safe country, it must be remembered that the UK’s population is made up of migrants that have settled here over the centuries. However, not all immigrants will stay in the UK forever, and a considerable number of British nationals emigrate permanently from the UK.”

He added: “It seems to me that the only course of action is to nationally publicise the way in which the Home Office treats immigrants and applies its regulations.

“Politicians and government officials must be made to realise that they are dealing with people – and not just trying to manage statistics.

“Politicians, and the Westminster Government in particular, must be sufficiently embarrassed to take action to treat immigrants in a more humane way and address the plight currently being suffered by Russell and Ellen Felber.”