Commission Argues RSA’s Interpretation and Application of Driver License Regulations Incorrect

Commission Appears before High Court on State’s Refusal to Issue Driving Licences to Asylum Seekers

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today appeared before the High Court as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in a Judicial Review challenge by two asylum seekers to a decision by the Road Safety Authority (‘RSA’) to refuse them permission to exchange their full driver licences, from their country of origin, for Irish ones. One of the two asylum seekers is a licenced truck driver.

In its written submissions, published today, the Commission argued that the asylum seekers’ ‘normal residence’ was in Ireland and that, as such, they satisfied the residency requirements of the Road Traffic Regulations (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006.  The Commission also argued that if, as argued by the RSA, the 2006 Regulations place a requirement on asylum seekers to produce evidence of residency entitlement such as an EU passport or Irish Residency Permit, which asylum seekers are not entitled to, then the Regulations are either unconstitutional or incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is the Commission’s view that the ongoing exclusion from access to driving licenses represents a significant limitation on asylums seekers ability to seek employment.

The applicants, who are a married couple, require driver licences to access the labour market, bring their child to school and access other essential services.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, stated:

 “As part of its legal submissions the Commission argued the State imposed additional discriminatory requirements on asylum seekers going beyond the normal requirements.

“The Commission is using a number of its powers to challenge this administrative barrier faced by people in the International Protection system. This includes through litigation in the superior courts, through our Oireachtas engagement and at Ministerial level.

“Despite commitments made by Government, asylum seekers still today cannot access driving licenses. This leaves people, often living in remote rural settings restricted with limited public transport, and their work opportunities choked off. In this case, and others like it, people have been left with no choice but to challenge this through the courts.”

ENDS/

 

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095
bdawson@ihrec.ie
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

 

Editor’s Note

The Commission’s written submissions to the Supreme Court are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2021/10/IHREC-Legal-Submissions-to-the-High-Court-on-Driving-Licence-Cases.pdf 

The Commission has significant experience of the issues arising, having intervened as amicus curiae in the Supreme Court case of NHV, which vindicated the rights of asylum seekers to work. Since then it has been involved in significant policy work including appearing before the Advisory Group on Direct Provision chaired by Dr Catherine Day, where this issue was also addressed.

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

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.

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