WRC finds indirect discrimination against asylum seeker refused a driving licence

The National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) has been ordered to pay €2,500 to an asylum seeker for refusing his application for a driving licence.

In aftermath of the decision in NHV v Minister for Justice – which found that an indefinite ban on asylum seekers engaging in employment was unconstitutional – the applicant applied for, and was granted, a self-employment permit in March 2018. He then started work as a delivery man on his bike. He subsequently applied for a learner driver licence with the NDLS so he could transition to delivering by car.

To be eligible for a learner driver licence, an applicant must be normally resident in the State. In this application, he was required to provide his asylum seeker Temporary Resident Certificate, his Public Services Card, a copy of his passport and his permission from the Minister for Justice to access the labour market. The application was refused by the NDLS because he had failed to produce a Stamp 4 GNIB Card or an EU passport to establish that he is “normally resident” in Ireland. Relying on the NDLS guidance notes on what can be accepted as evidence of “normal residence”, it argued that persons who are allowed to reside in the State solely for the purpose of seeking international protection are not resident for the purposes of the Regulations.

In a hearing before the Workplace Relations Commission, the Adjudication Officer found that the applicant had suffered indirect discrimination under the Equal Status Act. Such discrimination occurs where “an apparently neutral provision would put a person at a particular disadvantage on any of the nine discriminatory grounds, provided this is not objectively justified by a legitimate aim, is appropriate and necessary.” In the view of the Adjudication Officer, the applicant had suffered indirect discrimination when he was asked to produce documentation that was impossible for him to get, despite having already proved his identity beyond doubt.

The Adjudication Officer instructed the NDLS to process the applicant’s application for a learner’s permit. The decision is now being appealed by the NDLS. In response to the decision the applicant said that, “a simple driver’s licence would bring a very great change in my life in a positive way by allowing me to move freely.”

Click here for the decision in full.



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