Israel’s government has approved a $167m plan to stem the flow of African migrants who cross into the country through its porous border with Egypt.
Announcing the government’s intention to increase fines for employers who hire illegal workers, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said: "If necesssary, we will close businesses so that the enterprise called the State of Israel will not shut down."
Speaking on Sunday, Netanyahu said he would make a trip to countries on the African continent where among other issues he will discuss the repatriation of migrants.
Political sources said he was likely to travel to Kenya, Uganda and possibly South Sudan in February next year.
The Israeli government puts the number of illegal workers in the country at more than 52,000.
Activists however accuse the government of misrepresenting the number of migrants. A large proportion, they say, are legitimate asylum seekers.
Netanyahu said the overwhelming majority of infiltrators are not refugees escaping persecution, but instead have come to Israel seeking better economic opportunities.
Most migrants come from Eritrea and Sudan, and cross into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert.
Israel is building a fence along its frontier with Egypt to block the migrants.
The government has also announced the construction of detention facilities to hold migrants.
The plan was first announced a year ago and Sunday’s cabinet decision freed up government funds to implement it.
"Without a plan to deal with illegal workers, the number of migrants will rise to 100,000 a year," Netanyahu was quoted in a government statement as telling the cabinet.
(Agencies via Al Jazeera)