Court Rules that RSA Regulations Block All Asylum Seekers from Getting Driving Licence

Court Rules that RSA Regulations Block All Asylum Seekers from Getting Driving Licence

Dublin Circuit Court has today ruled that a single mother living in a rural Direct Provision centre, is legally blocked from accessing a learner driver permit by the RSA’s current driving licence regulations.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the ‘Commission’), which has provided legal representation to the woman, says this ruling is one which immediately and negatively impacts on all asylum seekers who want to improve their employment prospects by being able to drive.

The asylum seeker at the centre of this case was the holder of a full driving licence in her country of origin. She requested a learner’s permit, so that she could learn to drive with a view to accessing better employment opportunities and childcare facilities. Without a licence, each week she has been undertaking a costly and lengthy bus and rail commute with her infant from Munster to get to her work as a housekeeper in Dublin.

While a Workplace Relations Commission (‘WRC’) decision in her favour, in February, declared that the refusal of a licence by the RSA was discriminatory, today’s Circuit Court ruling overturns that WRC decision.

Today’s ruling comes in the wake of a similar case of another asylum seeker, also legally represented by the Commission, where WRC had directed the RSA to process the man’s application and awarded him compensation of €2,500. The RSA also appealed this decision. On appeal, the man, whose circumstances had changed, was only seeking to uphold the award of compensation. The appeal was resolved on the basis that the appeal would be allowed but the RSA would make a payment of €4,000 to the man.

The woman’s current employers have offered to buy her a car in the event that she gets a full licence. The woman passed her driver theory test and her eye sight exam at a cost of over €100. When she applied for her learner permit, however, the RSA informed her that she needed to provide evidence of full or “permanent” residency permission, which as an asylum seeker by definition she could not possibly provide. When she was unable to provide the requested documentation, the agency refused her application in October 2018.

The Commission has previously raised the matter of discrimination in the rules applying to drivers licence applications with the Expert Group on Direct Provision Chaired by Dr Catherine Day, which included a recommendation for action on this issue in its interim recommendations to Government. A Commitment to act on this matter is also included in the Programme for Government.

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

Today’s ruling sets out that the manner in which the RSA applies the Driving Licence Regulations blocks absolutely all asylum seekers from accessing any form of driving licence. The Commission considers that this undermines the Supreme Court’s recognition that asylum seekers have the right to work, and that being able to access work is fundamental to a person’s dignity.

“It is now time for the Government to finally and emphatically address the issue of asylum seekers access to driving licenses.

“We all recognise that being able to drive is a significant enabler for accessing and securing employment, and the dignity that being able to work and earn a living affords. Barriers such as this one tie people’s hands in the competition to secure work, especially in rural areas where frequently people in Direct Provision are placed.”

“In response to today’s ruling, the Commission is calling for the Government to take action to remove this barrier to people seeking to exercise their right to work for their own dignity, and in many cases their family’s livelihood.”


For further information, please contact:
Karen Joynt
085 174 6883

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Notes to Editor

The name of the asylum seeker woman at the centre of this case is protected under court order and should remain anonymised in any court reporting.

Page 88 of the Current Programme for Government commits that:
“In the short term, act on interim recommendations from the Chair of the Expert Group to improve conditions for asylum seekers currently living in the system. This includes vulnerability assessments, the right to work, the ability to apply for drivers’ licences and bank accounts…”

The full decision of the Adjudication Officers in the two recent WRC cases are 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
a) the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal advice to the applicant;
b) the provision, or the arranging for the provision of, legal representation to the applicant
c) 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.