Legislation Promised on Driving Licences Fundamental to Access to Employment for Asylum Seekers

Commission Welcomes Publication of Day Report and is Reviewing Recommendations

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission welcomes the publication of the Dr Catherine Day Report, which brings forward fresh thinking and recommendations on how the State needs to respond directly to the needs of those seeking international protection in Ireland. The Commission will review the full report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process, and will engage directly on the Government’s forthcoming White Paper in respect of the significant human rights and equality issues raised.

As set out by Dr Catherine Day in her foreword to this expert report “Ireland has the opportunity to shape our system of international protection in a way that fully respects our EU and international obligations and the dignity and human rights of people in the process.”

The Commission also welcomes the Government’s announcement today that there will be legislation brought forward before the end of the year by the Minister for Transport on ensuring access for asylum seekers to driving licences. The Commission is clear that this legislation must decisively remedy current discriminatory practices, which are a bar to people securing employment.

The Commission has raised the practice of asylum seekers being excluded from accessing bank accounts as a serious one, and has supported legal challenges on this area. We believe that action can and should be taken to remedy this by Ireland’s high-street banks, as this blockage represents a further barrier to employment.

The Commission is concerned that while this legislation on drivers licences is being drafted and enacted, people remain in the situation of seeking to secure driving licences by means of legal challenges before the courts. The Commission has recently provided legal representation to two separate asylum seekers in their successful WRC challenges against the State in respect of access to driving licence applications, both of which were appealed by the State. (see page 77 of the Day Report for an outline of one of these cases.)

The Commission raised the matter of discrimination in the rules applying to driving licence applications and in relation to access to bank accounts with the Expert Group on Direct Provision Chaired by Dr Catherine Day in January. Separately the Commission also raised these issues in meeting with Minister O’Gorman in September.

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

“Being able to access work is fundamental to a person’s dignity. Discriminatory barriers to accessing both driving licences and bank accounts have served to undermine the Supreme Court’s landmark recognition of asylum seekers right to work.”

“The Commission hopes that today’s commitment from Government to bring forward new legislation on access to driving licences recognises this and marks a change of approach, which seeks to facilitate those seeking employment.

“The commitment from the Government to begin a formal system of vulnerability assessments from December is one which the Commission has sought in line with our international human rights obligations, and today welcomes.”

More broadly on the Day Report recommendations published today, the Chief Commissioner stated:

“Having contributed to the expert committee earlier this year, the Commission is now examining the detailed recommendations in this significant report.

“This is about putting in place a system which serves people in a timely fashion, and which recognises and respects people’s inherent dignity.

“The Commission has for too long had to highlight the damaging impact of Direct Provision on the right to family life, private life, and health in particular, as well as its impact on the rights of specific groups such as women and children.

“Direct Provision is fundamentally failing the people who come to Ireland seeking international protection. Today’s report and its recommendations must mark a clear change of direction, which needs to be reflected in the Government’s upcoming White Paper due for publication in December.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Visit our website www.ihrec.ie or follow us on twitter and Instagram @_IHREC

Notes to Editor

The Day Report recommends that:

  • “Applicants for international protection should be allowed to apply for driving licences and tests from the moment their application for protection is lodged.”
  • “The State should take the necessary steps immediately to ensure that EU Directive 2014/92/EU is respected and that all banks operating in the State respect the right of applicants for international protection to open and hold basic banks accounts.”

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.

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