Migrants carry their belongings as they flee a road leading from Moria to the capital of Mytilene, on the northeastern island…
FILE - Migrants carry their belongings as they flee a road leading from Moria to the capital of Mytilene, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.

As the European Union introduces a new migration and asylum plan after a blaze at an overcrowded camp in Greece left thousands without shelter, a poll released Wednesday shows the world is growing less accepting of migrants. 

North Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia led the Gallup index of the world's least-accepting countries, but several South American countries also became markedly less welcoming of migrants, the survey found. 

According to Gallup's latest update of its Migrant Acceptance Index, on a range from zero to nine, the global score on the index declined from 5.34 to 5.21 between 2016 and 2019. The score determines people's acceptance of migrants based on increasing degrees of personal proximity to migrants. 

FILE - Venezuelan migrants on their way to Peru sleep along the Pan-American Highway between Tulcan and Ibarra in Ecuador, after entering the country from Colombia, Aug. 22, 2018.

"Many of the countries leading the global downturn have been on the receiving end of the mass exodus of Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country," the report shows. 

Biggest shift

The most significant change came from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, which have absorbed millions of Venezuelans since 2015. 

"Initially, many of the migrants and refugees were welcomed in these countries, but public sentiment started to turn against them as their economies, and their health, education and social assistance programs buckled under the strain," according to the report.

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Gallup migration expert Julie Ray told Reuters the global decline in acceptance was driven by changes in Latin American countries. 

Peru's score fell to 3.61 from 6.33 in 2016, while Colombians who said migrants living in their country was a good thing dropped to 29% from 61%. 

Most welcoming

Canada, Iceland and New Zealand were among the most welcoming countries. The poll, with more than 140,000 interviews in 145 countries and regions, had questions about people's views on migrants living in their country, marrying into their families, and becoming their neighbors. 

FILE - Volunteers carry donated items towards a group of undocumented migrants looking for work as day laborers alongside a hardware store in San Diego, California, Feb. 4, 2017.

Ray added that despite the Trump administration's efforts to curb immigration, the U.S., which ranked sixth overall in the index, has generally positive attitudes toward newcomers. 

"Despite the fact that immigration is such a hot topic in the U.S., Americans are mostly very accepting of migrants," she said. 

Experts note that, around the world, greater acceptance is often displayed by younger generations and people with advanced levels of education.