Asylum Seeker Refused Driver Licence Experienced Discrimination on the Grounds of Race

Asylum Seeker Left Disappointed However As State Seeks to Appeal Ruling

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has welcomed as significant the decision of the Workplace Relations Commission (“the WRC”) in a case of an asylum seeker who was refused a learner driver licence. The Commission provided legal representation to the man in his successful case.

The man at the centre of the case has lived in Ireland since June 2015. He applied for and was granted a self-employment permit in March 2018, following the landmark ‘NHV’ Supreme Court decision which found that an indefinite ban on asylum seekers applying for work was unconstitutional. The man started work as a delivery man on his bike. He subsequently applied for a learner driver permit to enable him to increase his income by using a car for work rather than his bike.

In applying for his learner driver permit, the man had provided his asylum seeker’s Temporary Residence Certificate, his public services card, a copy of his passport and his permission from the Minister for Justice to access the labour market (which included his address). His application for a learner permit was refused, however, on the grounds that he had failed to produce either a Stamp 4 GNIB Card or an EU passport to establish that he was ‘normally resident’ in Ireland.

The man challenged the decision, saying that the government agency had interpreted the Road Traffic (Licencing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 in such a way as to exclude him as an asylum seeker from securing a licence. The man said that the Road Traffic Regulations only required him to prove that he was resident in the State 185 days a year, which, as an asylum seeker, he had been since 2015.

In its decision, the WRC found that the man had been treated less favourably than Irish and/or EU applicants for learner driver permits.

WRC adjudicator Jim Dolan set out that “Indirect discrimination happens where a person or group are treated less favourably as a result of requirements that they may find hard to satisfy; as occurs in this case wherein asylum seekers cannot apply for driver’s licenses because the identification documents required by the Respondent preclude asylum seekers from applying for a driver’s license”. The effect of this indirect discrimination was to deny this man, a non-EEA national, of the means to learn how to drive and therefore to earn a living.

The adjudicator ruled that the man has suffered indirect discrimination by being asked “to produce documentation that it was impossible for him to obtain”. The adjudicator ordered €2,500 in compensation to be paid and instructed the driving license service to process the man’s application for a learner-permit.

The man at the centre of the case welcomed the WRC outcome, saying:

“The decision by the WRC has come like a shining star in my life. It feels like I am a normal human like others. I wouldn’t have to wait for the buses for hours and hours to reach to my work place anymore. A simple driver’s licence would bring a very great change in my life in a positive way by allowing me to move freely.

However, when he went to the local office to have his driver’s application processed following the decision, he was dismayed to be refused once again. He has since been informed that the government agency has appealed the ruling.

“I was so happy about this decision but then when I went to get my licence I was devastated to be again refused. How can I hope to earn enough for my family if I can’t use a car for my work?  

“I really cannot understand how the State can say they are happy for people to seek work, but then block their way by the denial of such a basic thing as a drivers licence.”

Laurence Bond, Director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Being able to drive is a significant asset to accessing and securing employment, and the dignity that being able to work and earn a living affords.

“While the Supreme Court has ruled that people in international protection system can seek employment, the reality is that administrative barriers such as this tie people’s hands in the competition to secure work, especially in rural areas.

 “While the Commission welcomes the WRC ruling, we will continue in light of the State appeal to assist this man to vindicate his rights, and the rights of others in similar situations who have been deprived access to licences.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Visit our website or follow us on twitter and Instagram @_IHREC


Notes to Editor

The full decision of the Adjudication Officer in this case is available at the following link:

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

Under its legal functions set out in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Commission can, in certain circumstances, provide legal assistance to a person who wishes to bring a matter of human rights or equality of treatment before the Courts or the Workplace Relations Commission.

Assistance under Section 40 of the Act means any or all of the following

  1. the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal advice to the applicant;
  2. the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal representation to the applicant
  3. the provision of such other assistance to the applicant as the Commission deems appropriate in the circumstances;

The Equal Status Acts state:

Section 5(1) ESA prohibits discrimination in the disposal of goods and provision of services:

A person shall not discriminate in disposing of goods to the public generally or a section of the public or in providing a service, whether the disposal or provision is for consideration or otherwise and whether the service provided can be availed of only by a section of the public.



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