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Please refresh the page and retry. L ucia Palacios, 22, was consistently top of her class at home in Maracay, Venezuela. But today Ms Palacios - not her real name - is working as a prostitute, selling sexual favours to British and German holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol. She is one of , Venezuelans that the Spanish authorities record as having fled the failed central american state for Spain over the last few years.
The true figure is thought to be much higher and many educated women, like Ms Palacios, have been forced into prostitution to make ends meet. She has at least escaped the area's brothels. S he feels trapped in Spain, as her family in Venezuela are reliant upon the several hundred Euros she sends them every month to buy food and essential medical supplies. More than 30 per cent of the population is out of work and, for those in work, the monthly minimum wage has been so eroded by inflation that it is only enough to buy single cup of coffee.
Hospitals have run out of basic medicines, leading to a health crisis so profound that experts compare it to the war-shattered states of Syria and Yemen.
Law and order has also broken down and the capital, Caracas, now has the highest murder rate of any capital city in the world. Spain counted Venezuela as a colony until and has the most relaxed entry requirements for Venezuelans in Europe. M igrants are entitled to a three-month tourist visa on arrival and can apply for permanent citizenship after three years living in the country. For those unable to buy their own plane tickets, human traffickers are funding the travel costs and then forcing women to work in the sex industry on arrival to pay back their debts.
B etween and , the Spanish Interior Ministry recorded a 1, per cent increase in victims of forced sexual abuse from Venezuela. One Venezuelan immigrant who gave her name only as Salome, 30, told The Daily Telegraph last week that she was forced into prostitution on arrival in Spain together with four others, by a fixer who threatened to harm her and her family in Venezuela if she refused.