WHEN a small group of Dutch pensioners moved to Spain two decades ago they had a dream to build their own homes and live out their days in simple, rustic bliss.
Some 17 years later and they claim they are being evicted from their homes, ‘kidnapped’ by social workers and forced to dismantle their idyllic community.
In the most bizarre of circumstances, Mijas town hall has accused the friends – who now number just half a dozen – of running an illegal care home and demanded that it must be closed down.
In a show of strength, followed up slavishly by local Spanish and English media, boss of Mijas Town Hall social services Eva Gonzales accused the group of being unhygienic and suggested some of its elderly members were being abused.
Using a search warrant and escorted by local police she explored the entrance to the site in the Valtocado area, before releasing the details of the ‘squalid’ conditions to the press.
The only problem – the place is actually rather nice… and anything but squalid.
Claims in rival newspapers that they are ‘hippies’ and living ‘surrounded by rubbish’ in an area ‘not fit for human habitation’ have been completely denied by the residents.
Moreover, Patricia ‘Alex’ Derks, who runs the camp, told the Olive Press that she is not running a care home and is now counter suing the town hall for its actions.
The mother-of-two, from Nijmegen, insists that their only crime is living a different sort of lifestyle.
“It is anything but squalid here and actually rather charming. We have lived here for 17 years without any problems and always kept ourselves to ourselves and tried to live sustainably,” she said.
She explained how the group, who originally numbered a dozen, was legally formed in Holland 26 years ago as a ‘commune’ of like-minded people.
Inspired by the Good Life, they moved to Spain, where land was considerably cheaper and built their community by hand, planting a vegetable garden and generally living off the land.
To make ends meet they pooled their savings and pensions and supplemented this by selling scrap metal and hand-made quilts and dog beds.
That was until, last month, when one of the members of the group Judith, 83, who had a stroke four years ago, was taken into hospital by ambulance having suffered an unexpected fall, caused by a bladder infection.
While not serious, the infection and a couple of bruises led to the Costa del Sol Hospital, in Marbella, contacting social services about her condition.
Alex said: “However her problems are normal for any person getting older, she is a bit clumsy and has had a few falls. She simply has some bladder issues.
“But nurses took her bruises for abuse, and after asking questions she didn’t understand she was whisked away to a nursing home in Torremolinos.
“Isolated from anyone who understood Dutch, and unable to get back to her home, she called her daughter who, with the Dutch embassy, managed to get her released from the care home.”
The ‘inquisition’ that has followed has worried the other residents – and near neighbours – so much that they have become concerned for their safety.
Kyra, 70, who has stage 4 cancer, has been forced to return to Holland for fear of being put into a home.
Gardener Jack, 76, who is healthy but has a genetic heart problem, “Lived during the second world war, and this incident is taking him back to those horrible expereinces he suffered as a child.” said Alex
Luckily however, other neighbours and expats in the Mijas area have rallied around with support.
One, Arthur Webster, 67, a website designer, from WHERE, has been trying to understand why these vulnerable, yet harmless people, are ‘becoming victims of persecution’.
“Mijas town hall has single-handedly attacked this group, using questionable tactics,” he said.
“I have spent a lot of time there and have had often been in their homes and can say it is simply not true. And there is no evidence to support the claims.”
Derks, who this week put in a denuncia against Eva Gonzales, continued: “If the authorities had actually looked around they would have seen there are only six of us living here, and there is clearly no care home.”
She continued that photos in the local press apparently showing a junk yard are actually of their scrap metal yard, much of which was waiting to be collected.
A group of huts, which were said to be their homes, were actually storage units.
The town hall insisted this week that they still believed it was a care home and they wanted it dismantled.
But as Webster concluded: “All ex-pats must group together to fight this persecution. We are under attack and need to support each other and be aware of the legal resources that are available to us.”