Nasc statement on access to driving licences for asylum seekers
The decision of the Dublin Circuit Court to overturn the Workplace Relations Commission declaration that the refusal to issue driving licences to asylum seekers is discriminatory will be bitterly disappointing to asylum seekers across the country. Ireland, particularly rural Ireland, continues to rely predominantly on private vehicles for transport and barring asylum seekers from the opportunity to drive limits their ability to become involved in the communities in which they live and to take advantage of employment opportunities outside of their immediate locales.
This is a policy that has been consistently raised by TDs in parliamentary questions to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport over several years since 2018. The former Minister for Transport stated as early as July 2018, that he was seeking “legal advice” on the question of whether it would be possible to issue driving licences. In September 2018, then-Minister, Deputy Shane Ross confirmed that he had received legal advice that it was possible to issue asylum seekers with driving licence “once other matters had been resolved”. It is now almost two years later and there does not appear to have been any further progress by the Department of Transport.
Meanwhile, the prohibition has been criticised by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in their Report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process published last year and recommended for change by Dr Catherine Day in her briefing note on the Progress of the Expert Group on Direct Provision from June 2020. The Programme for Government included a clear commitment to permit asylum seekers to access driving licences.
The judgment by Dublin Circuit Court now puts the matter firmly back in the hands of the Minister for Transport. We are now calling on Deputy Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport, to provide a clear timeframe for when these restrictions will finally be removed and asylum seekers can move one step closer to becoming full members of the Irish community.