High Court upholds refusal of learner driver's permit for asylum seekers

Judge finds Circuit Court did not err in law in interpretation of Road Traffic Act

The High Court has upheld a decision that the refusal of a learner driver permit to an asylum seeker does not amount to racial discrimination. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The High Court has upheld a decision that the refusal of a learner driver permit to an asylum seeker does not amount to racial discrimination. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The High Court has upheld a decision that the refusal of a learner driver permit to an asylum seeker does not amount to racial discrimination.

A lone parent who arrived here in 2015 applied for international protection and then applied in October 2018 for a learner permit because, although she lives in Munster, she had to travel to Dublin to work as a housekeeper.

Her journey involves a lengthy rail and bus journey and she was unable to move to the capital due to lack of accommodation in a direct provision centre there. She held a full licence in her own country and her employer here offered her a car if she got a full Irish licence.

As an asylum seeker, she holds a temporary residence certificate which allows her to remain in the State pending the determination of her application for international protection. The temporary certificate was not accepted as proof of normal residence when she applied for a learner permit to the National Driver Licensing Service (NDLS).

Appeal

Last July, the Circuit Court rejected an appeal by the woman claiming the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which runs the NDLS, discriminated against her on the grounds of race.

She appealed that decision on a point of law to the High Court where Ms Justice Eileen Creedon also refused the appeal.

The judge found the Circuit Court did not err in law in its interpretation of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006.

It also did not err in law in concluding that those regulations imposed a “requirement to provide evidence of residency entitlement in Ireland”.

The woman’s case was brought under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 and there was no error in the interpretation of that law or in the conclusion that the RSA did not discriminate against the woman on the ground of race, she said.

In her case, the woman argued the RSA’s practice and policy in relation to the 2006 regulations amounted to discrimination on the grounds of race.

Argued

She argued that, for non-nationals, the RSA imposes a requirement which goes beyond normal residence, that is a requirement of “residency entitlement”, which she said is not found in the 2006 regulations themselves.

She also argued it was “this subtle way” that the RSA excludes all applicants for international protection from access to driving licences in the State.

Among her other arguments was that the concept of normal residence in the 2006 regulations is based on and must be interpreted in a manner compatible with the definition in a 2006 EU directive (2006/126/EC).

The RSA denied her claims.

It argued, among other things, that it was obliged by law to seek evidence of normal residence pursuant to the 2006 regulations. These required her to have her “normal residence” in the State or to have been studying in the State for at least six months prior to the date of the application.

The woman, as an asylum seeker, was at all relevant times not “normally resident” in the State. The requirement to provide evidence of that was not prohibited under equal status legislation, it was also argued.

Ms Justice Creedon, after dismissing the appeal, said the parties could make submissions in relation to the question of costs of the case. In the Circuit Court, the judge there made no order as to costs which meant both sides paid their own costs.