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Venezuelans escape to Spain and ask to return old favour

Once, Spaniards fleeing repression and poverty in Francisco Franco's dictatorship found themselves building new lives in Venezuela, given refuge by their cousins across the Atlantic.

Now, Venezuelans are asking them to return the favour.

A shared language and cultural heritage draw Venezuelans escaping from hardship under the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro.

But many new arrivals say Spain's authorities are failing to recognise them as genuine refugees, forcing them into legal limbo and black economy jobs.

Venezuelans have topped the list of asylum requests in Spain for three years, but only a tiny fraction are granted refugee status: just 15 out of 12,875 last year.

The UN says that 208,333 Venezuelans were living in Spain by April this year - but August figures from Spain's labour ministry show that fewer than 40,000 are officially registered to work.

Many of the rest disappear into the black economy.

Most Venezuelans arriving at Spanish airports claim to be tourists. In reality many have sold everything just to get there.

"Venezuela received Spaniards with no questions asked, regardless of whether they had money or papers. The least we expect is to be received in the same way," says Luis Manresa, a Venezuelan politician from the opposition party Acción Democrática.

He fled to Madrid in 2011 because, he says, he had received threats from the government and was about to be arrested on trumped-up charges.

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