JERUSALEM (JTA) — The surge of illegal African migrants into Israel "threatens national security and identity," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"If we do not stop this, 60,000 infiltrators could become 600,000 and possibly even jeopardize Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish democracy," Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
He said Israel was working to prevent more migrants from entering Israel, pointing to the construction of a border fence between Israel and Egypt from where most of the migrants enter. Netanyahu also said the government was working to deport the illegal migrants.
His comments come less than a week after Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Army Radio that most African migrants in Israel are involved in criminal activity and should be imprisoned and deported to their countries of origin.
There are more than 50,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv alone, according to government reports. Most entered through the border with Sinai.