Driving Licences for Asylum Seekers
The Workplace Relations Commission have found that the refusal to grant a leaner driver permit to an asylum seeker constitutes indirect discrimination. The asylum seeker was supported and represented by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). You can find their full press release here and a copy of the decision here. Unfortunately as this case is being appealed by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the RSA are continuing to refuse to accept driving licence applications from asylum seekers.
IHREC have stated that they will "continue in light of the State appeal to assist this man to vindicate his rights, and the rights of others in similar situations who have been deprived access to licences.”
Nasc very much welcomes this decision. The inability to access a driving licence has created significant barriers to those in the international protection process who do have permission to work, from finding employment. Nasc has raised this issue on multiple occasions, including directly with the Road Safety Authority and when appearing before to the Joint Oireactas Committee on Justice and Equality. Many direct provision centres in Ireland are located in rural areas with limited access to public transport. This directly impacts their ability to realise their right to work.
Background and the decision
The complainant was a Pakistani national, who had made an application for international protection and had been granted a self-employment permit in February 2018. He argued that in order to facilitate the exercise of his right to work and to enable him to increase his income, he needed to be able to drive. After obtaining his self-employment permit, he applied for a learner permit to allow him drive a car.
The RSAy refused his application on the grounds that he had failed to provide valid proof of residency. It was argued that this constituted a refusal on the grounds of his race and, in particular, on account of his status as an asylum seeker.
Indirect discrimination happens where a person or group of people are treated less favourably as a result of requirements that they might find hard to satisfy; as occurs in this case wherein asylum seekers cannot apply for drivers’ licenses because the identification documents required by the Respondent preclude asylum seekers from applying for a driver’s licence.
The WRC found that the asylum seeker in this case, had suffered indirect discrimination by being asked to produce documentation that it was impossible for him to obtain.
The RSA have appealed the decision and continue to refuse to grant driving licences to asylum seekers. This does not mean that you cannot apply for a driving licence however asylum seekers should expect to continue to be refused until the case has been heard in court and a judgment has been handed down. Alternatively, it is possible for the Department of Transport to change their position and issue new guidelines to the RSA.