African migrants after crossing the border from Sinai.
African migrants after crossing the border from Sinai. Photo by Mori Chen
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Israel will begin constructing a barrier on its border with Egypt within the next two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

The government has said that the central purpose of this fence is to keep the growing number of illegal migrants from infiltrating the country.

"Peace does not include the flood of illegal infiltrators, who come from Africa through Sinai," Netanyahu said at a memorial for former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. "This is a blow which our neighbors in Egypt are also suffering from."

Netanyahu referred to the long-planned barrier as "our obligation and our right, to protect the State of Israel."

Israel's Population and Immigration Authority reported last week that some 700 illegal migrants infiltrated through the Egypt-Israel border on a weekly basis, a record number.

That reflects an increase of some 300% since the beginning of 2010, according to the report, which put the total number of infiltrators from January to November at 10,858 people. In 2009, 4,341 migrants were recorded.

Fewer than 200 asylum seekers have reportedly been granted refugee status in Israel. In 2008, Israel recognized the asylum claim of just one refugee, and in 2009 only two.