Bank of Ireland is first to allow asylum seekers open accounts

Bank of Ireland will allow asylum seekers to open bank accounts from May 14.

A Bank of Ireland spokesperson told the Irish Independent that the bank is very aware that in some specific circumstances, a customer may not have documentation that’s normally required to open an account.

It has now tailored account opening requirements so they don’t exclude customers such as asylum seekers from the financial system.

Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) said the group welcomes the steps by the bank, which will make it easier for asylum seekers to open accounts.

‘’This is good news and this is what we have been calling for it and many people in direct provision are happy for this,’’ said Mr Khambule.

Banks have been refusing to open accounts for asylum seekers for many years.

Mr Khambule said that such people were prevented from opening bank accounts when an EU directive stipulates that asylum seekers must be permitted to do so.

The EU directive states: “Member States shall ensure that consumers legally resident in the Union, including consumers with no fixed address and asylum seekers, and consumers who are not granted a residence permit but whose expulsion is impossible for legal or factual reasons, have the right to open and use a payment account with basic features with credit institutions located in their territory.

“Such a right shall apply irrespective of the consumer’s place of residence.”

The Central Bank of Ireland said that regulation 15 of the EU directive on payment accounts provides that accounts with basic features shall be made available to consumers by all relevant credit institutions, and that the opening and use of an account with basic features shall be in accordance with the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act of 2010.

A Bank of Ireland spokesperson said that to open a bank account, a customer needs to be able to supply documents that prove their identity and address. This is an important part of how the bank works to combat money laundering and other illegal activity.

‘’Where a customer is unable to provide the traditional anti-money laundering documentation required, substitute documentation can be used,’’ the spokesperson added.

Bank of Ireland has a dedicated vulnerable customer unit which is designed to be a centre of expertise within the bank to provide support to customers facing challenging circumstances, such as the asylum-seeking community.

Mr Khambule claimed that AIB was easier than all banks for asylum seekers, but pointed out that it is the first bank that has announced it will accept the substitute documentation that asylum seekers obtain from the State.

It didn’t make sense that people have authorisation to work, but don’t have bank accounts which they can use to receive their pay, Mr Khambule pointed out.

‘’We are calling all on other banks in Ireland to allow asylum seekers to open bank accounts’’, he added.


By Mostafa Darwish, April 11, 2021, published on

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