Israel building separation wall to keep refugees out

Israel building separation wall to keep refugees out
Israel has begun building a wall along the eastern border with Jordan as Benjamin Netanyahu rejects calls to give shelter to Syrian refugees.
2 min read
07 September, 2015
Israel has been taking steps towards surrounding itself with border fences on all sides [AFP/Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu launched the construction of the next section of a multibillion dollar security fence along the border with Jordan.

This follows calls for Tel Aviv to take in Syrian refugees.

Since returning to power in 2009, Netanyahu oversaw the construction of similar fences along the Sinai border and in the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu said that he would not allow Israel to be "submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists."

In remarks released by his office, Netanyahu said: "Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of Syrian and African refugees... but Israel is a small country...without demographic or geographic depth. That is why we must control our borders."

The announcement came a day after Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leader, said 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 new 30km fence will be a continuation of a 240km barrier that already runs along the Egyptian border.

Work on the fence, which stretches from Eilat to Timna, near an airport Israel is building close to the Jordanian border, officially began on Sunday.

"We are doing this without harming, in any way, the sovereignty of Jordan, which we respect and whom we see as a partner in preserving a peaceful border," Netanyahu claimed.

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.