Asylum seekers in Ireland will soon be able to open a bank account for the first time.
Bank of Ireland has agreed to accept State-issued documents allowing asylum seeks to open an account from next month.
The move follows more than three years of engagement between the bank and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
“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 Commission said in a statement.
“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.”
Bank of Ireland will now accept an in-date Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) in the case of asylum seekers and a Stamp 4 Irish Residence Permit (IRP, previously known as GNIB card) and/or a Refugee Travel Document in the case of refugees as forms of identification.
Essential societal service
The Commission is now calling on all of Ireland’s high street banks to ensure that they accept these State-issued documents from asylum seekers for the purposes of opening a personal bank account.
Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said: “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
“Bank accounts are an essential societal service that must be available to all, including asylum seekers, in accordance with the law.”
The Commission said that it has engaged with several banks for over three years, explaining that under Irish and EU law asylum seekers are entitled to bank accounts.
However, it said that banks continue to request asylum seekers to produce identification documents that they cannot routinely provide in order to open an account.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. It is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations.