AIB ordered to pay €4,000 over refusal to open account for Syrian dentist

WRC found AIB discriminated against man on grounds of race

AIB said there was no ill intention towards the man or Syrian nationals whatsoever

AIB said there was no ill intention towards the man or Syrian nationals whatsoever


The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered Allied Irish Bank (AIB) to pay a Syrian dentist €4,000 over its refusal to open up a bank account for him as he was Syrian.

The successful discrimination case was taken on behalf of the Syrian refugee by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the man told AIB in a letter that he found its refusal to open up a bank account for him in November 2017 as “upsetting and humiliating”.

The IHREC told the WRC that in the days after the refusal, the bank aggravated the discrimination by offering the dentist €250 in compensation and offering to open a bank account for him.

The IHREC described the bank’s offer to open a bank account for the Syrian man “as an empty exercise in PR”.

The IHREC stated: “That is no more than the treatment he was always entitled to and utterly beside the point.”

The WRC found that AIB discriminated against the man on the grounds of race under the Equal Status Act.

In the case, the Syrian man was granted refugee status here in July 2017 after he came to Ireland as part of the country’s Refugee Protection Programme.

He is currently in the process of re-qualifying as a dentist here and on November 16th 2017, he went to an AIB branch to open a bank account.

In his evidence, the Syrian stated that a female bank official told him “we don’t open bank accounts for Syrians at the moment” and she pointed to the word “Syria” which is recorded on the Travel Document as his place of birth.

The dentist said that the bank official said that she was sorry over the war in Syria and that he could try another bank.

The man wrote to the AIB to notify the bank of its treatment of him.

An AIB Regional Manager wrote back on December 1st 2017 to apologise for the ‘poor customer experience’ the man encountered on November 16th and offered to open a bank account.

The bank’s policies restrict staff from opening new accounts for Syrian residents, as Syrian residents are on the UN Sanctions List, but those restrictions don’t apply in the dentist’s case as he has been granted refugee status in Ireland.

The dentist wrote back stating “it is very important to me that robust systems are properly in place to ensure that no other Syrian, or indeed no other refugee, would have a similar negative experience”.

In its submission to the WRC, AIB stated that “it does not discriminate against refugees”.

It stated that “it accepts the Irish Refugee Travel Documents as an acceptable form of proof of identity for customers opening accounts and has opened numerous accounts for customers with refugee status in Ireland who used that documents”.

AIB also told the WRC that while it accepts and always accepted refugee travel documents as proof of identity, “since becoming aware of this incident, the Bank has updated its website to specifically refer to the fact that travel documents are accepted”.

The bank also stated that the bank official’s error “was regrettable, but thankfully isolated” and the bank “is not aware of any similar incidents arising in any other of its branches”.

AIB state that there was no ill intention towards the man or Syrian nationals whatsoever.