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Asylum seekers can now apply for a driving licence in Ireland

It follows a High Court ruling that asylum seekers in Ireland meet the residency requirements to apply for a licence.

Image: Leah Farrell

THE DEPARTMENT OF Transport has announced that asylum seekers can now apply for a driving licence or a learner permit in Ireland.

It follows a High Court ruling that asylum seekers applying for a driving licence in Ireland meet the normal residence requirement of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 and are now eligible to apply for a driving licence.

The Department of Transport said that this ruling gives the legal certainty to allow access for asylum seekers to be introduced now, ahead of legislation. 

It said that Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan now intends to introduce a Committee Stage amendment to the Road Traffic and Roads Bill to ensure that any person who is legally entitled to reside in the State can apply for a driving licence.

This will put the Government’s policy on a statutory basis and provide clarity and legal certainty for applicants and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the department said.

In a statement, Minister Ryan said: “In the Programme for Government we gave a commitment to making it possible for asylum seekers to access the driving licence system. The courts have now made a ruling that international protection applicants meet the residency requirements to apply for a licence.”

“I will now proceed to introduce an amendment to the Roads Bill that will put our policy on a statutory footing. Asylum seekers face many challenges as they make their way in life. Being able to drive will give people more independence in their daily lives and the ability to commute to work and education by car when necessary.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD said the Government has committed to improving conditions for people living in direct provision as it works to end that system, adding that “allowing people to apply for driving licences is another element of that”.

By removing the barrier to accessing driving licences, we are giving people an option to travel that many of us take for granted, whether that is going to college or work, meeting up with friends or bringing children to school. This is a positive step forward, that will help people to live independent lives and better integrate into their communities,” he said.

In a statement, The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), an advocate group for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, welcomed the announcement, saying the news had been received “with much enthusiasm” by asylum seekers based in rural Ireland “with appalling public transportation”.

However, MASI said it is concerned that the Transport Minister did not address the possibility of converting expired licences that were issued by other states.

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“The Minister must allow an asylum seeker who had a valid driving licence at the time of claiming asylum to convert it into an Irish licence if issued by a recognised State. There are a number of asylum seekers who are in that position and were unjustly denied an opportunity to convert their valid licences,” the group said.

MASI urged the Transport Minister to introduce transitional redress measures to address the situation, adding “it is not fair on people who are affected by this”. 

The temporary residence certificate issued to asylum seekers will be specified in secondary legislation as proof of residency.

Asylum seekers can now use their temporary residence certificates as proof of normal residence in Ireland when applying for a driving licence or learner permit.

All other requirements for a driving licence or learner permit application must also be met. A full list of these requirements can be found on the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) website.

About the author:

Jane Moore

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