Illegal infiltrators threaten Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Calling the issue “very grave” and a threat to the “social fabric,” Netanyahu said, “If we do not stop the entry, the problem, there are now 60,000 illegal infiltrators; could easily grow to 600,000 illegal infiltrators. This would inundate the state and, to a considerable degree, cancel out its image as a Jewish and democratic state.”

The prime minister spoke of the importance of finishing construction of the Egyptian border fence and working to send away “those [illegal migrants] who are already inside.”

Netanyahu said the latter will be done in part by punishing employers who hire illegal migrants.

The growing population of more than 50,000 illegal African migrants has become a hot-button issue, with the weekend editions of all three major Hebrew dailies featuring lead stories relating to the issue.

A little over three weeks ago, African migrants were targeted in a series of Molotov cocktail attacks in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood. In addition, there have been a series of sexual assaults in Tel Aviv over recent weeks that police say were carried out by African migrants.

Also on Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) repeated his call to jail illegal African migrants, most of whom he said were involved in crime.

“I repeat what I said – we must jail all of them or deport them with a stipend. The moment they are put in jail – others won’t want to come here anymore,” Yishai said, in an interview with Army Radio.

He also took issue with a statement made by Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, who during a tour of south Tel Aviv last week said, “There are tens of thousands of people here who if we don’t create places of work for them, it will make them to turn to crime, and as long as they’re here we need to ensure that they are able to work.”

“Why should we be finding them places of work?” Yishai asked. “The jobs will keep them here; they will have children here as well. This idea will only make more and more hundreds of thousands come.”

On Monday, the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers will hold an emergency meeting on the situation in south Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, anti-migrant protesters plan to march from the Hatikva neighborhood shuk to the headquarters of Mesila, a municipality-run organization that helps foreigners.

Committee head Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) called on Sunday for the government to check the refugee status of all asylum-seekers and to return those determined to be migrant workers and to allow those found to be refugees to stay and work in Israel legally.