A majority of people in the Dominican Republic want bans and deportations for Venezuelan and Haitian migrants entering their country, according to new polling data.
The poll of 1,200 people carried out March 5-11 by the Dominican newspaper Hoy found that 50.8 percent of residents believe that no more Venezuelans should be admitted into their country, while 46.4 percent believe that the government should continue to welcome those fleeing from the failed socialist state.
From those surveyed, 17 percent of respondents also believe that the government should ban more Haitians from entering the country after hundreds of thousands of people began fleeing to the other half of the island in the wake of the devastating Haitian earthquake back in 2010.
Under current rules, Venezuelans may travel to the Dominican Republic without obtaining a visa and are granted a two-month stay permit upon arrival. Yet many of those people are now illegally overstaying to avoid returning to Venezuela, where the monthly minimum wage has been crushed down to under two dollars ($2) a month and millions are now living in abject poverty.
As a result, many Venezuelans can now be seen on the streets of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo selling traditional Venezuelan food or offering other services such as cleaning or manual labor, while many women have been forced to turn to prostitution.
According to the Hoy poll, 53 percent of Dominicans also believe that those living in the country without a permit should be deported, with this figure being closer to 63 percent in the southern part of the island where the majority of migrants live.
The island, which has a population of approximately ten million, has seen increased tensions between local communities over high levels of migration. As a result, Dominican authorities recently adjusted the country’s citizenship rules to allow the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Haitians, although the status of Venezuelans remains unclear.
Other countries, such as Brazil and Colombia, are also experiencing growing anger among local residents, as thousands of Venezuelans migrate in search of work or even just basic resources inaccessible back home.
Last month, residents in the Colombian border town of Cucutá held an anti-migration protest that led to the expulsion of dozens of people on a sports field, amid fears of rising levels of crime and local unemployment.
In the Brazilian border town of Mucajaí, a local mob also stormed and ransacked an abandoned school building sheltering dozens of Venezuelans, leading to greater fears of more xenophobic backlashes as the migration crisis continues to worsen.