Commission Granted Legal Role in Case Where Asylum Seekers Challenge State’s refusal to issue Driving Licences - IHREC - Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Commission Granted Legal Role in Case Where Asylum Seekers Challenge State’s refusal to issue Driving Licences

Commission Granted Amicus Curiae Role in High Court Judicial Review

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has been given permission by the High Court to exercise its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in a case where two asylum seekers are challenging the  National Driving Licence Service’s (NDLS) refusal to permit asylum seekers to exchange their foreign driving licences for Irish ones.

The case Landsberg & Breetzke v. NDLS & Others is a challenge by two South African asylum seekers to a refusal by the NDLS to exchange their driving licences for Irish ones on the basis that they have failed to prove that their normal residence is in the State.

Mr. Landsberg and Ms. Breetzke, who are a couple, require a driving licences to be able to access the labour market, bring their child to school and access other essential services.

The Commission has made itself available to the High Court as the case raises a significant question about the compatibility of the State licensing body’s practices and of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 with the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law. The case will be heard in October.

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

The Commission has also provided legal advice and representation to members of the public who have applied for asylum and been refused access to drivers’ licences.  A decision is currently pending in a High Court appeal in one such matter. In that case, the asylum seeker challenged the NDLS’s refusal to issue her with a driving licence under the Equal Status Acts. The WRC ruled in her favour, finding that the refusal of access to a driver’s licence was discriminatory. The Circuit Court subsequently overturned that decision. The matter was appealed to the High Court on a point of law, and judgment is awaited following the hearing.

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

“This case raises a fundamental issue about the legality of the State’s ongoing refusal to consider applications for driving licences from asylum seekers. In this case, the State has refused to permit the exchange of two driver licences from South Africa, a country that the NDLS normally recognizes as part of its driver licence exchange programme, on the basis that the applicants are asylum seekers.

“This case raises important human rights and equality issues and has implications for thousands of people who have sought asylum in Ireland, who want basic access to drivers’ licences to work, to bring their children to school, pick up their shopping and a range of other daily tasks that many of us take for granted.”

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

As the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is now formally involved in the proceedings, we are precluded from making any further comment as the matter is before the High Court.

Where written submissions are made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to the superior Courts in amicus curiae cases they will be made available on www.ihrec.ie after the case has been heard.

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.

  • Facebook Share Icon
  • Twitter Share Icon