Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin NetanyahuFlash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meeting with Likud MKs Monday, discussed Sunday's protest by African migrants demanding recognition as refugees. Netanyahu said that illegal migrants could protest all they wanted, but that would not shake Israel's determination to deport them.

“I want to make it clear: No protests or strikes will help. Just as we succeeded in preventing new illegals from entering Israel, we will also remove from here those who managed to get here in the past,” Netanyahu said.

Thousands of the illegals gathered in Tel Aviv for the demonstration Sunday, staying away from their jobs to demand that they be allowed to remain in Israel. In recent weeks, Israel has begun rounding up illegals whose work visas have expired and detaining them at a new facility in southern Israel built to hold them as the government worked on ways to deport them. So far, some 300 illegals have been detained. Protests also took place in Eilat, with illegals who did not attend the protests taking a day off from work in solidarity with the protesters.

A new security fence on Israel's southern border has successfully halted the mass illegal invasion of several years ago, but estimates say that some 60,000 illegal infiltrators who managed to get into the country in previous years remain. The illegals - most of them hailing from Eritrea and Sudan - demand that Israel grant them the status of political refugees which, according to UN regulations, cannot be deported to their countries of origin.

But Israel says that nearly all the illegals are economic migrants who are searching for work, and as such they can be deported.

Netanyahu reiterated that point in his remarks. “They are not refugees, which we deal with according to international protocols. They are migrant workers who are here illegally. I intend to ensure that the full force of the law is used against them,” he said.