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Pakistan’s startups take centre stage | Infographic

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Pakistan’s economy has been battered by rising inflation, COVID, supply chain shocks and high energy prices over the last few years. But in that world of constant shocks, its booming startup sector is turning out to be a silver lining for the country.

In 2021, 83 startups raised $350m according to Invest2Innovate, a Pakistani consultancy firm. And so far this year, the sector has already raised $136m.

Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder of Invest2Innovate and general partner at its sister firm i2iVentures, an early-stage investor, says 2021 was a record-breaking year and says people will question if the momentum is sustainable.

“What’s really important is for the ecosystem to also be building the health overall,” she told Al Jazeera, referring to startups and investors preparing for things such as how to grow the talent pipeline to meet the needs of these fledgling businesses, or how to improve the policy and regulatory environment to help them grow. “So while this momentum is exciting, there needs to be strengthening of these pillars in order to create sustainability and longevity and the continuing growth of the startup ecosystem,” she said.

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_DEAL FLOW TRACKER

COVID-19 was a catalyst for the startup landscape in Pakistan, which saw investments rise from $65m in 2020 to $350m in 2021. Extended lockdowns and quarantines provided entrepreneurs the opportunity to create digital products with a human impact.

With more than 250 startups since 2015, an increasing internet penetration driven by low-cost smartphones – there were 184 million cellphone users at the end of 2021 – and affordable data, Pakistan is one of the final few untapped markets for startups and investors to offer internet-based services similar to those in other parts of the world. These services include ride-hailing, and food and grocery delivery, among others.

Faisal Aftab, CEO of Zayn Capital, a venture capital fund and one of the primary investors in the Pakistani startup landscape, estimates that Pakistani startups will be worth $50bn by 2030.

“Today the number sits at $1.8bn, if we count Daraz and FoodPanda, which people should, then we’re sitting at $3bn to $4bn. We’re looking at an easy 10 times growth here,” says Aftab. Daraz, an e-commerce platform, was founded in Pakistan and now offers its services in several countries, and Foodpanda is an international food and grocery delivery business.

“It’s profound what is happening,” says Aftab, referring to the many first-time investors that have mushroomed in the country to pour money into these startups in hopes of handsome returns down the line. Many of these startups straddle parts of the informal economy and will help bring that under the formal economy and the tax net for the first time, he adds.

The five largest disclosed startup funding rounds in 2021 were: Airlift ($85m), Bazaar ($30m), Tajir ($17m), Qisstpay ($15m), and TAG ($12m).

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_Investments over the years

Invest2Innovate’s Pakistan Startup Ecosystem Report 2021 highlights the need for more attention directed towards startups to create a supportive ecosystem in which businesses can flourish.

Opportunities for growth, however, come with the challenge of finding the right human and capital resources to allow the building of infrastructure that can absorb the two million new people entering the workforce every year, the report says.

Infrastructure

Recent reforms, including a legal framework for Electronic Money Institutions set up by the country’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, have allowed new businesses to be set up and have led to an increase in investments. Another policy that led to investor cheer was the Digital Banking Policy, which was finalised in January and allows digital banks to not just be e-wallets, but also provide credit, investments, and other products.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which oversees non-banking companies, has established legal definitions for startups, and the federal government has helped set up Special Technology Zones.

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_Legislation

Danish Lakhani, founder of NayaPay, a digital wallet still in its testing phase, has been approved to be launched to the mass market by the State Bank of Pakistan after a nine-month pilot and inspection. NayaPay raised $13m in February from primarily local and foreign investors and is the largest funding for fintech in Pakistan.

“As an early electronic money institution, we worked closely with various departments at the State Bank during the evolution of the EMI-licensing process,” Lakhani told Al Jazeera.

Bottlenecks for foreign investors

While the huge injection of money into Pakistan’s struggling economy bodes well for the startup scene, it still faces challenges such as lack of local investors, limited skilled workers, and the gender gap in founders and workers.

According to the i2i investment tracker, angel investors – high net worth individuals who financially back a business usually in return for a share – invested $32m across 14 deals at the pre-seed stage, and $123m across 46 deals at seed stages. The pre-seed stage is when an idea needs enough equity to kick-start operations for an early version of the product. The seed stage is when the company needs to raise funds with an angel investor or institution formally.

However, funding for later stages is an issue that needs to be addressed if companies want to scale and enter new markets. The majority of the early-stage investments are from outside Pakistan. There were 11 local angel investors in 2021 who co-invested in six deals that totalled $6.9m.

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_HOW FUNDING WORKS

While there has been progress by regulatory authorities for startups, there is still a lack of legal framework for foreign companies wanting to buy shares in Pakistani firms.

The government has allowed holding shares for startups to be outside Pakistan, thus helping to push foreign investments. Zayn Capital’s Aftab says companies feel more comfortable knowing they can keep their shares outside of Pakistan because of the lack of faith in its judiciary and legal frameworks.

Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity on taxation laws for venture capitalists, and those wanting to sell their stakes in these startups.

William Bao Bean, a general partner at SOSV – a global venture capital fund with a portfolio of more than a thousand companies and $1.2bn in assets under management – and managing director of Chinaccelerator, is an investor in many startups in Pakistan. He says the regulatory environment, the currency, and the economy does not really matter to him. His company is focusing on the mid to lower-income market in Pakistan and wants to provide services that change lives, he says.

“When you have technology coming in and making a fundamental change to how people live, as they can communicate, they can be entertained, they can have their first love, they can buy insurance for the first time, they can buy their first pair of Nike’s….. people will gravitate towards [those] life-changing services. And there’s not a whole lot you can do to stop it,” he told Al Jazeera.

Lack of local investors and scalability

There are more international investors than local angel investors – the number of international angel investors grew from 5 in 2015 to 37 in 2021. In comparison, there were 11 local investors in 2021 and 10 in 2018. Additionally, local investor investments totalled up to $6.9m, which was 1.9 percent of the total funds raised at pre-seed and 21.8 percent at the seed stage. International investors, however, made 14 deals totalling $147m.

Skilled workers

There are not enough skilled staff for senior positions or a trained workforce to meet the needs of the various startups. The availability of quality technical staff, such as software engineers and data scientists, is limited.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Technology and Innovation Report, out of 158 countries, Pakistan ranks 146 in terms of technology and development. Often, competitive startups have the same pool of workers and managers circulating within the same industry.

Universities are not equipped with curriculums that can be beneficial to new businesses or enable students to create their own. As a result, with the limited pool of trained workers, companies end up offering raises to hold on to trained employees. In addition, with foreign funding, salaries are further bumped up, adding to pressure on smaller firms to be able to pay competitive wages to get the right talent.

Founders who have international degrees raised more money than those who graduated from local universities. Invest2Innovate’s data showed that of 80 deals, there was at least one founder in each startup that had an international degree.

Despite the preference given to foreign graduates by investors, senior managers find local graduates have more of a connection with the local market.

“There is a clear preference of wanting to hire international graduates because of how they understand the technology and a foreign degree is a brand,” says a female manager at an e-commerce website who declined to be named for reasons of job security. She’s been working in the startup landscape since 2016 and believes there is a significant difference in the workforce within Pakistan as well, not just with international graduates. Local university graduates between Karachi and Lahore are vastly different in terms of their efficiency, understanding of technology, and willingness to learn.

However, she adds, as a manager in a hiring position, she sees that international graduates create an uneven environment. The socioeconomic class differences in a workplace create an unspoken boundary, which is further amplified by the educational institutions people come from.

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_Founding team education

The drastic gender gap

The gender gap in Pakistan is one of the worst in the world, ranking in the bottom three, at 153 out of 156 countries, according to the Global Gender Gap Report.

Female participation is vastly unaccounted for as most of them are unskilled, or unpaid, labour. As for women who are in the formal workforce, their options for growth are limited often because their families aren’t comfortable with them traveling out of the house or to far places or because they have to prioritise taking care of family members and that often means dropping out of the workforce or not taking up roles that require longer hours at work.

However, there is progress as far as women being connected to the internet is concerned. Entrepreneurship has allowed women in urban centres to progress to becoming business owners.

INTERACTIVE_PAKISTAN_STARTUPS_Distribution of female founding teams

According to Invest2Innovate’s report, gender disparities are prevalent in the startup ecosystem and prevent women-led startups from achieving their full potential. Only 1.4 percent of all investments raised within the past seven years in Pakistan were by solely women-run startups.

Oraan, a fintech startup to help women save money, raised $4m last year, making it the most funded female-led startup. Halima Iqbal, co-founder and chief executive of Oraan says it was difficult to secure funding, but they were glad to have the backers who believe in the problem they are solving.

“A very tiny portion of VC funds in the world go to women-led companies and there is a relatability factor that plays a role in funding,” as most of the investors are male.

Despite Oraan’s success, female-founded startups were disproportionately at a disadvantage as women-led startups received a mere $8m from 2015-2021, compared with female cofounders, who received $138m, and male-led startups received $447m according to the report published by Invest2Innovate.

The female manager mentioned above says in all the years she has worked in startups, there have been very few women in senior positions, with the majority of women limited to human resources or junior executive staff.

“As a senior manager now, I’m often alone in a boardroom with men and despite my confidence, I feel intimidated. I’m also often made to feel that I’m being talked at,” she told Al Jazeera.

NayaPay’s Lakhani says one of the core values at his firm is gender neutrality. “[We have] flexible working options, on-site childcare facilities, training, and growth opportunities are readily available for all our team members. We are partnering with organizations such as CodeGirls which encourage and train women interested in technology roles.”

Despite the progress some companies are making, on-site child care facilities and flexible hours are not the norm yet. Women are still widely left out of the investment networks and mentorship. Support programs need to be bespoke designed for female-founded startups, including legal and financial services, networking development, and access to mobility, stated the insights report.

Shane Shin, of Shorooq Partners, an investment company based in the UAE, says startups in Pakistan are exciting because if they can be scaled to enter Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that’s where companies become worth several billion dollars.

“Pakistan is at the juncture of accepting global capital from the US and Asia, and this is a very rare phenomenon,” says Shin.



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Taiwan delays scheme to help Hong Kongers over spying fears | Politics News

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Taiwan has indefinitely delayed a scheme that would have made it easier for professionals from Hong Kong and Macau to become permanent residents or citizens, after concerns from politicians about possible infiltration by Chinese agents.

The scheme by the island’s Mainland Affairs Council would have allowed professionals who had worked for five years in Taiwan and earned an income at double the national minimum wage to apply for more permanent status. They would also not have been required to renounce their Hong Kong or Macau citizenship if they applied to become Taiwanese, unlike ordinary citizens of China.

Most foreign professionals can apply for permanent residency after five years of employment but people from Hong Kong and Macau were required to meet other criteria such as having Taiwanese family, a Taiwanese spouse, or working in specific industries.

Legislator Lo Chih-cheng, who heads the ruling Democratic People’s Party international affairs department, said lawmakers were concerned that it was difficult to determine who was a real “Hong Konger” or “Macanese”.

“Some people in Taiwan tend to see the so-called Hong Kong people as different from the Hong Kong people they used to know,” he said. “There are concerns about China’s infiltration into Hong Kong society and there are also concerns about Hong Kong people working for Beijing.” 

Taiwanese were vocal supporters of Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests, which have been credited with giving a boost to President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2020 re-election campaign, which had been struggling in the months before the demonstrations began.

The protests and their aftermath have carried extra significance to Taiwanese as an example of how Beijing’s promises cannot be trusted.

Limits to support

Former European colonies, Hong Kong and Macau were returned to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s and until recently enjoyed certain rights and freedoms not found in the mainland under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework that Beijing also offered as a potential governance structure for Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.

For Hong Kong, “one country, two systems” was supposed to protect the territory’s special position and guarantee that people could continue their “way of life” with all its rights and privileges for at least 50 years.

The imposition of the national security legislation in 2020 has effectively ended those freedoms, while Macau is due to see stronger national security laws this year.

But while some of those involved in the protests have found refuge in Taiwan, the opposition to migration is an indication that even in Taiwan there are limits to how far it wants to go in supporting those fleeing Beijing.

Legislators from Tsai’s DPP and the pro-Taiwan independence New Power Party have been some of the most vocal in their concern about potential security risks.

“There’s a lot of almost unanimous symbolic support for Hong Kongers in the sense where Taiwanese can look at what’s happening in Hong Kong and be like ‘we don’t want that to happen to us, and we feel bad for what’s happening to Hong Kongers,’” said Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Fairbank Center.

“But that’s qualitatively different from say, substantive support in terms of policy. We see a lot of variation, meaning that not everyone wants a pro-Hong Kong policy,” he said.

Nachman led a research team in 2021 that surveyed 1,000 Taiwanese people about their feelings about Hong Kong and found that while most were sympathetic that did not translate into a desire for legislative action, according to results published in Foreign Policy.

Ever since their return to Chinese rule and the relaxation of visa requirements, Hong Kong and Macau have emerged as popular destinations for mainland Chinese. Hong Kong’s population has swelled by one million since its 1997 handover while Macau’s population has grown 50 percent from around 418,000 in 1999 to nearly 650,000, according to World Bank data.

Lo said many Taiwanese were also concerned about the potential competition posed by Hong Kong’s highly educated workforce, despite the likely boost for the island’s economy.

“Personally, I think we should take this opportunity to recruit the best talents from Hong Kong given the deterioration of human rights and freedom in Hong Kong, it is the best opportunity for Taiwan to recruit to attract the best talent,” he said.

Generational risk

Taiwanese have aired their scepticism about the new immigration scheme online, particularly from social media accounts associated with pro-Taiwan independence views, said Chen-en Sung, the deputy CEO of the Taiwan New Constitution Foundation, a government-aligned legal group.

 

He told Al Jazeera many of their concerns about Chinese infiltration by people from Hong Kong and Macau were hypocritical because Taiwanese have also worked on behalf of Beijing’s interests.

“Even if [new immigrants] are pro-China originally, I think Taiwan is an open society, and we have the capacity to accommodate those views, not to mention that a lot of our own citizens have pro-China and anti-independence views,” he said.

Eric Tsui Sing-yan, a visiting scholar at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, however, says there is reason for caution, despite having fled the city himself in 2020 for fear he could be investigated for two books he wrote on Hong Kong.

“This question is complicated. People from Hong Kong are not 100 percent safe because Hong Kong is a complex place with all sorts of people,” he told Al Jazeera, citing a decades-long infiltration campaign by the Chinese Communist Party from Hong Kong’s trade unions into the upper echelons of society.

Tsui said the issue largely comes down to demographics: most people under 30 are likely to be low risk due to their well-documented dislike of Beijing and pro-Hong Kong feelings, while older people with potential business ties to the mainland were higher risk.

He said Taiwan’s current policies unintentionally courted the second group by focusing on professionals and people capable of making substantial financial contributions.

“The current policy attracts high-risk groups and drives away the low-risk groups,” Tsui said. “Yes, there is a security risk, but it is not equal among all Hong Kongers. The risk is different in different generations.”

In 2020, Taiwan established an office to help those fleeing political prosecution in Hong Kong after about 200 former protesters fled there, according to activist estimates. Since then, the office has helped some 100 protesters, according to government media, although efforts have been hampered by two years of strict border controls to contain COVID-19.

The government is also not obligated to help any potential refugees as it is not party to any international refugee conventions due to Taiwan’s disputed political status.

Recently, however, measures were loosened to allow students from Hong Kong and Macau to study at Taiwanese high schools and vocational schools, while many already study at Taiwanese universities.

These measures do not directly apply to professionals from Hong Kong and Macau who are already working in Taiwan and would like to remain permanently.

About 11,000 people from Hong Kong moved to Taiwan last year, according to government data, a fraction of the 89,000 who left the city between June 2020 and June 2021.

The vast majority have instead chosen to move to the United Kingdom, the territory’s former colonial ruler, where anyone born before the 1997 handover – about 5.4 million people – is eligible for a special immigration scheme. The UK Home office says more than 100,000 people have applied for the scheme since January 2021.





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Voters head to polls open in close-run Australian election | Elections News

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Sydney, Australia – Polls have opened in the Australian election, with a tight contest expected between the incumbent Liberal-National coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the opposition Labor party under Anthony Albanese.

Labor have led opinion polls throughout the campaign, but the gap has narrowed with Morrison’s coalition making up ground ahead of election day.

Morrison is aiming to become the first Prime Minister to win two elections in a row since John Howard in 2004.

Voting is compulsory in Australia and just over 17.2 million people have enrolled to vote according to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Record numbers of voters have already cast their ballots at early voting centres or via postal votes, and more than half of the total votes had been cast by Friday evening, according to the commission. Polls close across the country at 6pm, which is 08:00 GMT in Sydney and 10:00 GMT on the west coast.  The result could be known as soon as Saturday evening.

Narrowing polls and the emergence of independent candidates has raised the possibility of a hung parliament.

Labor or the Liberal-National coalition require 76 seats in the lower house to form a government, anything less and they would need to negotiate with smaller parties and independents in order to try and form a minority government.

A man in a wetsuit and surf board joins the queue to vote at a Bondi Beach polling station
A strong showing for independents could lead to a hung parliament, amid disatisfaction over the major parties’ positions on climate change [Mark Baker/AP Photo]

The campaign has focused heavily on the rising cost of living, with Australia experiencing its highest inflation rate in 21 years, and the central bank raising interest rates.

Morrison has argued that his handling of the economy is a major reason for voters to back him again, pointing to record low unemployment rates.

He is also proposing a scheme to allow young people early access to their superannuation funds to buy property and get a foot on the housing ladder.

Concerned for future

Labor, meanwhile, has attacked the government’s economic record, highlighting how wages are not growing fast enough to meet the increased cost of living.

“As a recent grandfather I am concerned about the future generations and the economic policies of the major parties aren’t addressing that,” Brian Silver, a teacher voting in Sydney told Al Jazeera.

The rising cost of living is filtering into all areas of life, with voters concerned about the impacts on their everyday expenditure.

“Childcare is a key issue for me. I really need it, I need to know it is available but it is just so expensive”, said Lauren, who preferred only to share her first name, outside a polling station in North Sydney.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese cuddles a dog and laughs as he meets supporters outside a polling station in Melbourne in M
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese (centre) is hoping voters will back Labor to form the government for the first time since 2013 [Wendell Teodoro/AFP]

Australians have also expressed increasing concern about climate change.

The country has seen its effects first-hand, with Morrison’s time in charge dominated by extreme bushfires in 2019-20 and recent major flooding in Queensland and New South Wales.

Many of the independent candidates in the election have campaigned solely on the basis of climate change, offering different solutions to the problem compared with the two major parties.

“Climate change is something we really need to look at, especially getting electric cars into Australia. We need a fast uptake of them and we need charging stations to be created. That is something the government can do,” Tim, who preferred only to share his first name, told Al Jazeera ahead of voting in North Sydney.

A high number of independent candidates are running in traditionally Liberal seats, with high profile and well funded campaigns raising their profiles.

“I’m voting for the independent here, Kylea Tink”, explained Katie Archer, a voter in North Sydney.

“I really like her policies when it comes to climate change, I think she is really progressive. Whereas Scott Morrison, it just always feels like he is caring for himself and his own back and not putting the population first.”

Attitudes and policies towards Indigenous peoples are also on the agenda at this election, with Aboriginal groups continuing to demand land rights and recognition as the nation’s first people in the constitution.

It is an issue which could also add to the drift away from the two main parties.

“Whilst both Liberal and Labor point fingers at one another over who is doing the least for First Nations people, the minor parties such as The Greens and the newly formed Indigenous Party of Australia are offering more tangible-practical policies and solutions to effect change to our most marginalised and oppressed communities around the country,” said Indigenous activist Lynda-June Coe.

On the eve of election day, a number of high profile Australian newspapers endorsed either Morrison or Albanese.

There was support in the more right-wing and business press for Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition, with both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review calling for the Prime Minister to be re-elected, with the latter describing him as ‘Australia’s best bet’.

Meanwhile, The Age newspaper, based in the second biggest city of Melbourne, gave its backing to Labor in an editorial titled; ‘For integrity’s sake, Australia needs a change of government’.

The Sydney Morning Herald, its sister publication, also backed Albanese, saying that ​​’on balance, the nation needs a change’.



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US judge blocks Biden’s plan to end Title 42 border expulsions | Migration News

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A judge in the United States has blocked the Biden administration’s plan to end a contentious immigration policy that allows US authorities to turn away most asylum seekers arriving at the country’s southern border with Mexico.

US District Judge Robert Summerhays issued a nationwide injunction on Friday barring US President Joe Biden’s administration from lifting the policy known as Title 42. It was expected to be rescinded on May 23.

“That means Title 42 will not end anytime soon,” tweeted Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, about the federal judge’s decision.

The ruling comes after two dozen US states sued the Biden administration over its plan, arguing that Title 42 should remain in place because proper consideration was not given to likely increases in border crossings and other issues.

The Justice Department said in a brief statement on Friday evening that it plans to appeal.

Former US President Donald Trump’s administration first invoked Title 42 in March 2020 as COVID-19 swept through the country, arguing it aimed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

But last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was “no longer necessary”, and the Department of Homeland Security said it would end its use at the border.

“CDC has now determined, in its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority [Title 42] is no longer warranted in light of the current public-health circumstances. That decision was a lawful exercise of CDC’s authority,” the Justice Department said in Friday’s statement.

More than 1.9 million Title 42 expulsions have been carried out since the restriction was put in place, with the vast majority of asylum seekers quickly expelled back to Mexico or their countries of origin without the chance of applying for asylum in the US.

Rights advocates and immigration experts have been calling on the Biden administration to end the use of Title 42, which they say violates US and international law and puts already vulnerable asylum seekers at risk of kidnapping, torture, rape and other violence in Mexico.

‘Seeking asylum is a legal right’

Human rights groups denounced Friday’s ruling as an affront to the right to seek asylum.

“This lawsuit only serves to prevent vulnerable families and children facing unspeakable violence, persecution, and exploitation from exercising their legal right to seek asylum,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a resettlement agency.

“Beyond the devastating humanitarian impact of Title 42, the ruling also fails to recognize well-established domestic and international law. Seeking asylum is a legal right, and yet this bedrock of the American legal system is quickly eroding at a time of unprecedented need,” Vignarajah said in a statement.

Asylum seekers hug near the US-Mexico border wall
Rights groups have denounced Title 42 as a violation of US and international law [File: Go Nakamura/Reuters]

Al Otro Lado, a migrant support and advocacy group that works in the southern US and Mexico, also denounced the decision as extending suffering at the border.

“Parents are sending their children across the border alone to save their lives. This is #Title42 + its extension only means indefinite suffering,” the group said on Twitter.

“Title 42 has caused enormous harm to people seeking safety. Continuing to manipulate this public health law is beyond cruel,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also said.

For their part, several Republican officials hailed the ruling, painting it as a setback for Biden’s immigration plans, which they said aim to weaken border security.

Senator Bill Cassidy, who represents Louisiana, invoked his support for Judge Summerhays’s nomination under former President Trump in welcoming the decision.

“A Louisiana judge just halted Biden’s disastrous plan to make the border crisis worse by repealing Title 42. We need to give Border Patrol the tools they need to secure the border, not take them away,” he wrote on Twitter. “Proud to say I supported Judge Summerhays’ nomination.”

“Our request to stop the Biden Administration from revoking Title 42 was just granted by a federal judge,” tweeted Jason Miyares, Virginia’s attorney general, adding that it was “a HUGE win for securing our border”.

Political pressure

Biden has faced growing political pressure from Republicans and even some members of his Democratic Party over Title 42, especially as the country prepares for critical midterm elections in November.

Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo, reporting from Mexico City, said that political debate in Washington over immigration “is very much on the minds” of the thousands of migrants and asylum seekers waiting on the Mexican side of the border.

“Just this week there were demonstrations outside of the US consulate in Tijuana [in northern Mexico] by migrants who were pleading to US officials to lift Title 42,” Rapalo said on Friday.

“One thing that is of concern here in Mexico is that … Title 42 has been used as a pretext to interrupt the traditional asylum process in the United States, and while that asylum process remains slowed down … those numbers of migrants and asylum seekers continue to pile up here in Mexico, putting more pressure on the resources available to the Mexican government.”

Meanwhile, rights advocates also have criticised the US president and his Democratic party for failing to overturn some of his predecessor’s hardline, anti-immigration policies – despite holding a slim majority in Congress.

“President Biden could have ended Title 42 and all of Trump’s inhumane and immoral policies as soon as he took office in January 2021,” Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES, an immigration legal services organisation in Texas, said in a statement shared by the group on Twitter.

“Instead, he surrounded himself with centrist advisors who coddled his fears on immigration reform and embraced deterrence as their central priority on immigration.”





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