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Netanyahu: Illegal immigration threat to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Illegal African immigration is a serious threat to Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"We have become almost the only First World country that can be reached by foot from the Third World," Netanyahu said Thursday in an address to the Manufacturers Association of Israel. "We are flooded with a surge of refugees who threaten to wash away our achievements and damage our existence as a Jewish democratic state."

The Israeli government earlier this month announced approval for the construction of a border fence with Egypt to prevent migrant workers from illegally entering Israel.

Netanyahu said the thousands of African and other migrant workers who have infiltrated to Israel from Egypt "are causing socio-economic and cultural damage and threaten to take us back down to the level of the Third World. They take the jobs of the weakest Israelis."

The prime minister reportedly said that the government would work to encourage employment to hire local manpower and encourage fervently Orthodox Jews, or haredim, to join the work force. Laws against hiring illegal workers also will be more stringently enforced, he said.

Netanyahu has said that Israel will remain open to war refugees.

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