"The illegal immigration phenomenon is very severe and threatens national security and identity," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, adding that "this problem began more than seven years ago."
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, which was held at Ammunition Hill in honor of Jerusalem Day, Netayahu said his government was working to curb the flow of illegal migrants and to "begin removing" others from Israel.
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"Currently there are 60,000 infiltrators in Israel, but if we do not stop (infiltration into Israel) this number can easily reach 600,000," Netanyahu told his ministers.
According to Netanyahu, the "flood" of illegal African migrants through the Egyptian border poses a threat to the country's "identity as a Jewish and democratic state. Therefore, we were forced to erect a physical barrier (border fence) that will be completed by October."
Addressing Jerusalem Day, the PM said "we have come as a united government to a united Jerusalem. We are committed to the development of the city and to working with the mayor to usher the city into the 21st century while preserving its unique history."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai addressed recent comments made by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch regarding the need to provide jobs to the migrants. "Those who believe that it would help if we give them jobs are wrong. They have taken root here. (Giving them jobs) would be one of the biggest mistakes the government could make," the Shas chairman said.
Prior to the cabinet's meeting, Minister Uzi Landau said illegal immigration was "not a socio-economic problem, but a strategic one" with security-related repercussions.
He said Mossad and the Shin Bet security service should be tasked with "stopping the flow (of illegal migrants) and dealing with crime networks and smugglers."
Minister Gilad Erdan responded to the South African proposal to label goods produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, saying the decision "mainly hurts Palestinian society and employment. This will not resolve the conflict."
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