Minister of State Browne and Minister O’Gorman welcome new Guide to Opening Bank Accounts for international protection applicants and people with status
Guide is published by the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) and supported by the five pillar banks
Banks to accept alternative ID documents to driving licence or passport
Guide will be available in six languages
13 May 2021
The Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration, James Browne TD and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, have today welcomed the publication of a new guide that will make it easier for international protection applicants and people with status to open bank accounts.
Speaking about the Guide to Opening Bank Accounts in Ireland for people seeking asylum or who have been granted status under the International Protection Act 2015, Minister Browne said:
“I am pleased that we have now made significant progress in delivering on one of the key commitments in the White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service, which was to ensure that banks respect the right of international protection applicants to open bank accounts. This commitment was informed by a recommendation of the Catherine Day Expert Advisory Group requiring banks to comply with obligations as set out in the 2016 EU Payment Accounts Regulations.
“My Department has been engaged with the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland who work directly with the main banks and other stakeholders over the last several months to address concerns around access to bank accounts for international protection applicants in Ireland.
“The 2016 EU Payment Accounts Regulations provide for all consumers legally resident in the EU, including people with no fixed address and asylum seekers, to be able to open a payment account without undue difficulty. This Guide will certainly assist in achieving a consistent and customer friendly approach to delivering on that objective by providing clear information on how to open an account and by offering reassurance that non-standard documentation, including state issued documents such as an Irish Residence Permit or a Temporary Residence Certificate, will be accepted as forms of ID when opening an account. The commitment to supporting the implementation of the guidelines through the rollout of training for bank will be especially important
“I want to congratulate the BPFI for producing this Guide in collaboration with the Banks and the commitment to supporting their implementation through training for bank staff.”
Minister O’Gorman said:
“People who come here seeking protection are making valuable contributions to Irish society, and the barriers to accessing personal bank accounts have only served to impede a person’s potential and job opportunities. Removing these obstacles will help to support those seeking protection to continue with their lives.
“The White Paper commits us to ending Direct Provision and implementing a new model of international protection that focuses on integration from day one – one that is centred on human rights, and has respect for autonomy and privacy. In order to do that meaningfully, international protection applicants must be supported to live independently and avail of those essential services that are available to everyone.
“I wish to acknowledge the hard work of my colleague, Minister of State James Browne, and his Officials in the Department of Justice, and the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, and in particular all those who have campaigned for access to bank accounts in supporting those in the international protection process to access banking services.”
The Guide will be provided to all centres that provide accommodation for international protection applicants. It will be available in Arabic, French, Somalian, Georgian, Albanian and English. The Guide is also available on the BPFI website www.bpfi.ie
Notes for Editors
There are two forms of international protection covered by the International Protection Act 2015. These are refugee status and subsidiary protection status.
People can apply for international protection in Ireland if they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and they cannot seek the protection of their own country. This is called refugee status.
People can also apply for international protection if they cannot return to their own country because they are at risk of serious harm, but they do not qualify as a refugee. This is called subsidiary protection status.
The Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation for Persons in the International Protection Process (the Catherine Day Group) recommended that the State should take the necessary steps immediately to ensure that EU Directive 2014/92/ is respected and that all banks operating in the State respect the right of applicants for International Protection to open and hold basic banks accounts.
Banks are obliged to respect the right of International Protection applicants (and others including e.g. homeless people) to open and hold a basic bank account without undue difficulty, as provided in the EU Payment Accounts Directive – transposed into national legislation in the EU Payment Accounts Regulations 2016.
The EU (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016 provide that a consumer who is legally resident in the Union (including a person temporarily resident for the purpose of seeking international protection), has a right to open a payment account with basic features:
- regardless of his/her place of residence, or
- whether he/she has a fixed address,
- is an asylum seeker, or
- is a consumer who has not been granted a residence permit but whose expulsion is not possible for legal or practical reasons.
The EU Payment Accounts Regulations provide that a bank “shall refuse an application where such refusal is necessary to avoid an infringement of the [Criminal Justice] Act of 2010”.