6 November 2021
The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) welcomes the high court’s ruling in a matter involving asylum seekers who were denied access to an Irish driving licence by the Road Safety Authority. The asylum seekers came to Ireland with South African driving licences. Ordinarily, a South African driving licence can be exchanged for an Irish driving licence. So the applicants applied to have theirs exchanged and the Road Safety Authority refused claiming that the applicants do not meet the residency requirement.
The Road Safety Authority has spent years refusing to issue a driving licence to asylum seekers on the grounds that they do not have ‘normal residence.’ And the only proof of residence they recognise from a non/EU national is the GNIB/Irish Residency Permit card which no asylum seeker has. This has meant that asylum seekers can spend years languishing in the abhorrent system of Direct Provision and they would not meet the residency requirement demanded by the Road Safety Authority.
The high court has ruled that asylum seekers do not to need another right to stay in Ireland other than the one they have as international protection applicants which satisfies the Road Safety Authority requirements in Irish law.
Thus, MASI calls on Minister Eamon Ryan to ensure that a swift and appropriate remedy is implemented to facilitate access to a driving licence by the many asylum seekers who need it. For MASI, the most appropriate remedy is for the Road Safety Authority to accept the Temporary Residency Card issued by the Minister for Justice as proof of residency with the PPS Card. These are documents every asylum seeker will have with exception of legacy cases and those at judicial review stage. The Minister for Justice must ensure that people in the State through the international protection process are issued with such residency documentation to prove their entitlement to be in the State, pending the determination of their legacy case or judicial review application.
The Catherine Day Advisory Group called on government to give asylum seekers access to a driving licence. The group further called on government to issue access to the labour market within 3 months on receipt of an asylum claim, and in the form of a GNIB/Irish Residency Permit card. The Irish Residency Permit card would address many barriers including access to a driving licence.
MASI rejects claims from Minister Eamon Ryan that there is a need to amend legislation in order for asylum seekers to have access to a driving licence. The only real reason the government wants to amend legislation is for the Minister to be granted the power to cancel a driving licence if an asylum seeker receives a negative final decision. That would be discriminatory since every other non-EU national who meets the residency requirements can get an Irish driving licence and leave Ireland with it. To cancel a driving licence issued to an asylum seeker merely because they have a deportation order would be unfair in those circumstances.
Lastly, MASI commends the asylum seekers, KOD Lyons Human Rights Solicitors, and the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission, for their work on the case. It is sad that we have a government that is intent on treating asylum seekers differently when accessing public services. The fact that people who are deliberately placed on the margins of Irish society have to fight against the full might of the State in the courts for access to basic public services reflects badly on a nation that goes to the international arena claiming to be a champion of human rights.
About MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland is a grassroots organisation based in Ireland. We are people who are or have been in the asylum and direct provision system in Ireland, working and advocating together for justice, freedom and dignity for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Our focus is on the Right to Education and the Right to Work for all people seeking asylum, on the complete abolition of direct provision and an end to deportations.
Media Enquiries: Bulelani Mfaco – +353 89 474 2911