The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has confirmed that following formal engagement with Bank of Ireland, the bank has agreed that it will accept State-issued documents for asylum seekers to be able to open a bank account.
The Commission exercised its statutory powers through a formal process, called an Equality Review with the bank, which has prompted this positive step forward. The decision by Bank of Ireland to accept specific State-issued paperwork, which all asylum seekers and refugees hold, will allow asylum seekers direct access to basic financial services.
For over three years, the Commission has engaged with several banks, explaining that under Irish and EU law Asylum seekers are entitled to bank accounts. Despite this, the Commission is aware, through its own outreach and engagement with civil society groups that banks continue to request asylum seekers to produce identification documents that they cannot routinely provide in order to open an account.
As a priority issue, the Commission sought confirmation from Bank of Ireland that it accepted the following forms of identification for the purposes of opening a bank account, which it has now done:
Access to a bank account is an essential service to live in our society and one which most of us take for granted. Not having a bank account as an asylum seeker means:
Bank of Ireland has confirmed to the Commission that it now accepts the asylum seekers’ Temporary Residence Certificate, a Stamp 4 Irish Residence Permits and/or Refugee Travel Document for the purposes of opening bank accounts. Bank of Ireland has also committed to publishing a Guidance Document on its Group website that sets out the procedures for opening bank accounts for asylum seekers and refugees from next month.
In light of this welcome step, the Commission is now calling on all of Ireland’s high street banks to ensure that they are accepting these State-issued documents from asylum seekers for the purposes of opening a personal bank account.
The Commission is clear that, just as Bank of Ireland has done, all of Ireland’s banks can open bank accounts for asylum seekers, in line with their international and domestic legal obligations, without the need for legislative change.
Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney stated:
“The Commission has committed significant resources, including in the areas of outreach, litigation and statutory powers, to seek to vindicate the rights of asylum seekers and refugees to open bank accounts.
“We welcome this positive step from Bank of Ireland, who has confirmed to us that they accept asylum seekers’ and refugees’ State-issued documents to open an account, and that they will upload public information on their website in this regard.
“The Commission now calls on all high street banks to do the same. Access to the most basic of financial services is essential to enable asylum seekers to find work, support their families, support better integration and foster the inherent dignity that comes with the constitutional right to access work.
“Many asylum seekers flee their homes under threat or due to conflict, often without necessary paperwork, or have to submit documents such as passports to the Department of Justice pending their asylum application decision. It is important that banks recognise that people do not have access to these documents and simply cannot provide them.
“Bank accounts are an essential societal service that must be available to all, including asylum seekers, in accordance with the law.”