On Sunday (Feb. 20), the Dominican government began building a wall covering almost half of the 244 mile border with Haiti to stop irregular migration and goods, weapons and drug smuggling.
According to Reuters, a number of Haitians are crossing the border to search for work in the fields or in the construction industry in the DR. The two countries share the island of Hispaniola.
"The benefit for both nations will be of great importance," Dominican President Luis Abinader said shortly before pushing the button to begin pouring concrete into the foundations of what will be the wall in the province of Dajabón.
But Haiti and the Dominican Republic are very far apart in terms of development. Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the Americas while the latter has prospered in recent decades amid marked political stability and its thriving tourism industry.
But the Dominican Republic has been known for rejecting Haitians who have been there all their lives. More than 31,000 people have been deported from the DR to Haiti last year, the Associated Press reports.
A 2018 immigration survey, Reuters reports, found that about 500,000 Haitians and tens of thousands of their descendents live in the Dominican Republic, a country of about 11 million people.
Abinader estimates that the wall will reduce the smuggling of commercial goods, weapons and reduce crime in both island nations. He also adds that the first phase of the project will be completed within nine months at the latest.
The project also includes constructing 70 watchtowers and 41 access gates for patrolling, according to Reuters.