Commission Welcomes Bank Account Access for Asylum Seekers from All High-Street Banks

Step Comes After Years of Advocacy and Engagement

13 May 2021 – The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission warmly welcomes this morning’s news that all of Ireland’s High Street banks will, from today accept State-issued documents for asylum seekers and refugees to be able to open a bank account “without undue difficulty.”

Today’s joint announcement from AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, KBC and Ulster Bank comes after years of campaigning from asylum seekers, refugees and their representatives. The Commission has also used its statutory and legal powers to set out that under Irish and EU law Asylum seekers are entitled to bank accounts.

For several years the Commission has exercised its statutory powers through a formal process, called an Equality Review to engage with Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB directly on this issue. This work has proceeded alongside the Commission providing legal support for a number of legal challenges against account refusals by other banks. The Commission also appeared before the Day Commission and provided powerful client experiences of being denied bank accounts and driver’s licences.

As recently as April, the Chief Commissioner wrote to the CEOs of the banks involved in today’s announcement, and their representative body, the BPFI calling for this step to be taken.

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

“This is an extremely welcome joint step from Ireland’s high street banks.

“Access to a bank account is an essential service to live in our society and one which most of us take for granted.

“This is not just about having a bank account with your name on it. For asylum seekers and refugees this is about the impact that holding your own account has on your ability to get work, to avoid exploitation, to use public services, to safely provide for your family, and to live with dignity in our society.

“I would like to pay particular credit to those individual asylum seekers and refugees and representative organisations who have challenged their refusals, and sought and campaigned for this access over years.

“Bank accounts are an essential societal service that must be available to all, including asylum seekers, in accordance with the law. Today’s news marks a significant and welcome step forward.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter and Instagram @_IHREC

Notes to editor: 

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.