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Taoiseach says asylum seekers should be allowed to get licences for driving

Leo Varadkar says the rules were changed to allow asylum seekers to work, therefore they should be allowed to drive to that workplace.

The matter is being reviewed by the Transport and Justice Department.
The matter is being reviewed by the Transport and Justice Department.
Image: Leah Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said “in principle” he agrees that asylum seekers should be allowed to get a driver’s licence in Ireland. 

Speaking about the issue in the Dáil yesterday, he said that due to the Irish government changing the rules to allow some asylum seekers to work, they should be allowed to drive to that workplace. 

“There may be an issue around residency but in principle, if we are allowing somebody to work, we should allow him or her to drive to work or drive as part of his or her job so I will look into it and get a note on it,” he said.

Since June 2018, asylum seekers have been allowed to work in Ireland provided they pass certain criteria.

The government granted the permission after the Supreme Court ruled that laws banning them from working were unconstitutional.

Under the new rules, an asylum seeker must have been in Ireland for a period of nine months and be awaiting a first decision from the International Protection Office about their asylum.

Varadkar said allowing asylum seekers to work is a “positive thing”. However, he said a lot of the laws around obtaining a driver’s licence relate to an EU Directive, adding that this could be a reason there has been little progress on the issue. 

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy said there had been no movement on the issue from the Department of Transport in the past 18 months, noting the department states it is reviewing the matter.

TheJournal.ie asked the Transport Minister Shane Ross in September if a decision had been reached yet, and he said there was no update on it at that time.

In a parliamentary question, the minister said that historically Ireland has not issued driving licences to asylum-seekers.

“I have asked my officials to re-examine the question of whether we should issue driving licences to asylum-seekers, this matter is still under consideration in consultation with my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality,” he wrote.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said he is concerned to see people opposing reception centres in their neighbourhoods and blocking migrants from moving into local hotels “under the guise of humanitarianism and opposition to direct provision”.

“Too often, the sad reality is that the alternative to direct provision is what happens in France, Greece and Italy, which is camps and containers. I am determined that we never get to that point in Ireland,” he said.

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