Israel to crack down on illegal migrant workers

Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:37pm GMT

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel approved a plan on Sunday to hold and deport thousands of illegal migrant workers whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a "threat to the character of the country".

In remarks to the cabinet, Netanyahu said thousands of migrants who have entered Israel mainly through Egypt in past years would be housed at a special holding facility, due to built in Israel's southern Negev desert.

"We must stop the mass entry of illegal migrant workers because of the very serious threat to the character and future to the state of Israel," he said, adding Israelis who gave them work would face severe fines to make their employment unviable.

Established as a Jewish state in 1948, Israel welcomes Jewish newcomers, most of whom receive automatic citizenship, but policies toward non-Jewish migrants are more restrictive.

The cabinet approved the plan under which the state would control the migrants' movement until they are deported.

Netanyahu said however that migrants fleeing persecution would be allowed to stay.

"We do not intend to stop refugees fleeing for their lives, we allow them in and will continue to do so," he said.

Israeli officials have insisted on setting up the camp despite sensitivities over comparisons with Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and killed.   Continued...

<p>Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem November 28, 2010. Israel's cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to intern and deport illegal migrant workers from African states whom Netanyahu described as a "threat to the character of the country." REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool</p>
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