Court ruling on access to driving licences 'significant' for asylum seekers

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has described a High Court ruling on access to driving licences for people seeking international protection in Ireland as "very significant".

In the Judicial Review case before the High Court, in which the commission acted as amicus curiae ('friend of the court'), two asylum seekers challenged a decision by the Road Safety Authority to refuse them permission to exchange their full driver licences, issued by their country of origin, for Irish ones.

In its written submissions to the court, the commission argued that the asylum seekers' "normal residence" was in fact in Ireland and that they satisfied the residency requirements of the Road Traffic Regulations 2006.

In today's judgment, Mr Justice Mark Heslin found that the applicants are lawfully resident in the State, and therefore eligible for a licence.

Ireland's Human Rights and Equality Commissioner said the ruling marks a significant moment for asylum seekers in Ireland, because it confirms that they are "normally resident" and entitled to apply for driving licences.

Sinéad Gibney said that "despite commitments made by Government these individuals and families have been left for too long, often in remote rural settings with limited public transport, their work, educational and social opportunities stifled".

She expressed hope that they will now be able to get on with their lives, and to pursue such opportunities without further interference.

In a statement, Sinn Féin's Transport Spokesperson Darren O'Rourke welcomed the ruling but said it was disappointing that the applicants in the case were forced to take legal action.

He called on Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to "act without delay to address the findings of this judgment and ensure asylum seekers can obtain driving licences here".



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