Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the start of construction of a fence along Israel’s border with Jordan after calls for Tel Aviv to take in Syrian refugees.
Netanyahu said on Sunday that he would not allow Israel to be “submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists”.
“Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of Syrian and African refugees… but Israel is a small country, very small, without demographic or geographic depth. That is why we must control our borders”, he said at the weekly cabinet meeting according to his office.
The announcement came a day after Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, said on Saturday that Israel should take in Syrian refugees, recalling the plight of Jews who sought refuge from past conflicts.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, also called for Israel to allow Palestinians from Syria’s refugee camps to travel to the Palestinian territories, whose external borders are controlled by Tel Aviv.
The series of fences
The new 30km fence will be a continuation of a 240km barrier that already runs along the Egyptian border.
Israel also has a fence that runs along the Syrian frontier through the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and through the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu said further barrier work was being planned.
“We will as much as possible surround Israel’s borders with a sophisticated security fence that will allow us to control our borders,” he said.
Official figures show 45,000 refugees are in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of those not in detention live in poor areas of southern Tel Aviv, where there have been several protests against them.
Rights groups say thousands of African asylum-seekers have been coerced into “voluntary” departures.