“Roadworks ahead: the stop signs preventing Asylum Seekers from hitting Irish roads”

Allowing asylum seekers to apply for learners permits and licence transfers is an issue that has started to garner attention and become increasingly prominent in recent months. Driving is a simple activity that many of us take for granted and a right that many, our team at KOD Lyons included, believe should be extended to those trudging through our gruelling international protection process. However, what most people do not realise, it that denying international protection applicants access to driving licences is unlawful and a violation of both domestic and EU law and fundamental and constitutional rights.

Since the introduction of Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and Council laying down the standards for the reception of applicants for international protection, Article 15 provides that the State must ensure that all applicants have access to the labour market in accordance with national law. Many applicants for international protection are placed in accommodation in remote areas of the country with limited employment opportunities and poor transport infrastructure. By refusing to grant driving licences, the State are restricting employment opportunities for applicants. This results in many applicants being effectively cut off from the labour market, which constitutes a violation of Article 15 of Directive 2013/33/EU.

We have seen an increasing amount of international protection applicants who have no choice but to travel long, arduous distances on foot, by bicycle and on public transport for access the labour market despite being willing to learn how to drive but are unlawfully prevented from doing so. These are commutes where the time could very easily be cut down if the applicants were simply afforded the opportunity to drive.

In tandem with this, Regulation 12 of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006[1] requires that that an applicant for a driving licence must be regularly resident in the State in order to be successful in their application. Regulation 3 sets out normal residency and it’s definition doesn’t stipulate that a form a lawful residence that excludes international protection applicants is required. The Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) practice requires individuals from non-EU countries to provide a Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) or Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card as a prerequisite to processing an application for a learners permit or a licence transfer. Applicants for international protection do not have GNIB or IRP cards but instead hold Temporary Residence Cards (TRC) and benefit from normal residency on this basis. The RSA unlawfully refuse to accept TRC’s despite the fact that they provide their holders with a lawful and normal residency in the State.

Further to this, the exclusion of international protection applicants from applying for learners permits and licence transfers is, of itself, unreasonable and disproportionate and interferes with their fundamental and constitutional rights. In particular, their right to earn a livelihood, their right to respect for their private and family life and any such refusal constitutes as discrimination.

Our Immigration and Public Interest Team here at KOD Lyons are representing a number of international protection applicants in Judicial Review cases currently before the High Court where we are seeking orders quashing the RSA refusals to process their respective applications and a declaration that requiring a GNIB or IRP card to process a drivers licence application is unlawful. We have made representations to the RSA and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport requesting that they start processing applications for licences made by international protection applicants.

If you have a query or are concerned by this issue, please do not hesitate a member of our team on (01) 679 0780 or by emailing stephen.kirwan@kodlyons.ie.