Bank of Ireland changes policies to allow asylum seekers to open accounts
Asylum seekers can now open a bank account with Bank of Ireland following an intervention by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The rights watchdog exercised its statutory powers through a formal process called an equality review, which has led to a change in the bank’s policies.
Bank of Ireland will now accept specific State-issued paperwork, which all asylum seekers and refugees hold, as a form of identification for the purposes of opening an account, allowing asylum seekers direct access to basic financial services.
According to the Commission, most banks continue to ask asylum seekers to produce ID documents that they cannot routinely provide in order to open an account.
Bank of Ireland has confirmed to the Commission that it now accepts the asylum seekers’ Temporary Residence Certificate, a Stamp 4 Irish Residence Permits and/or Refugee Travel Document for the purposes of opening bank accounts.
The bank has also committed to publishing a guidance document on its group website that sets out the procedures for opening bank accounts for asylum seekers and refugees from next month.
Chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said: “The Commission has committed significant resources, including in the areas of outreach, litigation and statutory powers, to seek to vindicate the rights of asylum seekers and refugees to open bank accounts.
“We welcome this positive step from Bank of Ireland, who has confirmed to us that they accept asylum seekers’ and refugees’ State-issued documents to open an account, and that they will upload public information on their website in this regard.
“The Commission now calls on all high street banks to do the same. 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, including asylum seekers, in accordance with the law.”