Netanyahu to Visit Africa in Bid to Stem Illegal Migration to Israel

Cabinet ministers approve a 2% across-the-board cut to fund measures to halt influx of migrants; PM says that most infiltrators in Israel are labor migrants, not refugees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he plans to travel to Africa to examine the possibility of returning illegal labor migrants to their home countries.

At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday during which a NIS 630 million plan to halt the influx of African migrants and refugees was approved, Netanyahu said that the phenomenon of infiltrators entering Israel via the Sinai Peninsula is a "blow to [Israel's] economy, society, infrastructure, welfare and internal security."

Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman
Emil Salman

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Announcing the government's intention to raise fines for employers who hire illegal workers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "If necessary, we will close businesses so that the enterprise called the State of Israel will not shut down."

Netanyahu's trip to Africa is expected to take place in early February 2012. Netanyahu said that the Africans infiltrating into Israel are labor migrants, not refugees.

"We hear the outcry coming from Israel's cities," Netanyahu said. "We will continue to care for refugees, but they make up a minimal part of the human wave flooding. Entire populations are starting to move and, if we don’t act to stop this, we will be flooded."

According to data presented at the cabinet meeting, there are currently 52,487 illegal labor migrants in Israel.

The plan approved on Sunday includes speeding up construction to complete a border fence with Egypt within the coming year.

The plan also includes the construction and expansion of detention facilities to hold illegal migrants. Additionally, fines are to be increased on employers who hire illegal migrants.

Read this article in Hebrew.