Human rights groups fear that the detention centre, the largest of its kind in the world, with a capacity to hold 8,000 migrants, will turn into a festering refugee camp, and deprive those escaping persecution at home of their rights to seek asylum in Israel.
The project was approved by Israel's right-wing government 18 months ago, but many Israelis are uncomfortable about spurning asylum seekers from war-torn African countries given their own history as a nation of refugees.
"We'll do all it takes to provide reasonably humane conditions," an unnamed defence official told Israel's Haaretz newspaper. "We all wish we didn't have to build such a facility. But we're in a certain situation due to certain circumstances, and we need a facility to address these needs."