The event is part of PEN International’s Make Space campaign, which aims to create opportunities for writers and journalists who have experienced forced displacement or are living in exile through publications, events, advocacy, community organising, and digital action. Through this work, we aim to generate better cross-cultural understanding and an interrogation of what it is to host displaced communities in resettlement settings; challenge the rising tide of xenophobic discourse; and redress a societal imbalance that too often means writers face marginalisation or discrimination.
‘As writers we know that literature has no borders, neither in time nor space, and that we can only gain by opening our hearts and houses to other perspectives on life. In 2019, German PEN will celebrate 20 years of running our “Writers-in-Exile” Programme, having accommodated more than 50 international writers from all over the world over the years. It is somewhat ironic that some of our guests now have to escape from the very same countries which offered support to German refugees in the 1930’s. While we share our colleagues’ hopes and dreams that they will be able to return to their home countries in the not too far future, we know that we share the same values of a good understanding and mutual respect between nations and people.’ – Dr Regula Venske, President of PEN Germany and PEN International board member.
PEN and ICORN’s two-hour panel event brings together an exceptional group of writers and experts, including: respected ICORN writers and activists Asieh Amini and Abduljabbar Alsuhili; Dr Regula Venske, author and President of German PEN; Helge Lunde, Executive Director of ICORN, Juan Diego Catalano, Human Rights and Migration Consultant to the Mayor of Palermo and PEN International’s Advocacy Manager, Sarah Clarke.
‘ICORN works to protect persecuted writers, artists and human rights defenders around the world. Closed borders, the rise in xenophobia and rigid visa regimes endanger the road for change actors to move out of risk zones to places of safety. We hope and believe that the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration will lead to a genuinely more open world, with shared responsibilities and commitment to see the newcomers as a resource rather than a threat. Local and regional authorities play a vital role in the protection of both migrants and refugees, and as a growing network of cities with promotion of human rights in their DNA, we want to be at the forefront when bridges are built and walls demolished’ – Helge Lunde, Executive Director of ICORN.
Make Space was launched in 2017, with the support of more than 300 writers, Nobel Laureates, PEN Centres and PEN’s Writers Circle members including PEN President Jennifer Clement, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Elfriede Jelinek, Ahmedurrashid Tutul, Stephen Fry, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Salman Rushdie, Ece Temelkuran, Sanna Aoun, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Yann Martel, Mario Vargas Llosa, Sofi Oksanen, Urvashi Butalia, Chigozie Obioma, DBC Pierre, Noo Saro-Wiwa, Isabel Allende, Inua Ellams, Ocean Vuong, Rafeef Ziadah, Elena Poniatowska, John Ralston Saul, and Viet Thanh Nguyen. The campaign’s mission statement reads:
‘Some of us have been displaced; some of us are refugees and asylum seekers; some of us have lived in exile or have been forced to go into hiding in our own countries. But we are all writers and use words in ways that can shift and inform the society around us. And – whoever we are, wherever we are – when we consciously make space for the stories of displaced communities within our own, we make space for a shared cultural understanding that enriches us and connects us, disrupting the systems of division that alienate and dehumanise. It is time to act, and to act together.’
The Global Compact on Migration is the first international agreement which aims to set out a common approach to migration and all its dimensions. Under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, governments will be meeting on 10-11 December in Marrakech, Morocco, to adopt the Global Compact on Migration after lengthy negotiations.
PEN International welcomes that the Global Compact expresses a “collective commitment to improving international cooperation on international migration” and affirms that “it is crucial that the challenges and opportunities of international migration unite us, rather than divide us.” Through our Make Space campaign, we are working to highlight the stories of writers who are forced to migrate due to persecution, support them to carry out their professional work, but also to challenge the rising tide of xenophobia and hate, which is all too often directed at migrants and migrant communities.
PEN International’s recommendations to the international community:
- Recognise the specific protection challenges and persecution facing writers and journalists which mean they may need to go into exile or claim asylum
- Facilitate the timely and appropriate refugee status determination of journalists and writers and prioritise appropriate journalists and writers (e.g. with major health or trauma needs) for resettlement in third countries as particularly vulnerable refugees
- Create more complementary pathways to resettlement in order to address the need for protection of writers which is not being met by existing mechanisms. The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) and other similar temporary relocation programmes provide good models, but more financial support and cooperation is needed
- Ensure greater access to legal routes to travel such as humanitarian visas for writers, journalists and human rights defenders, and also access to freedom of movement for artists and cultural activists
- Strongly condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants – particularly when expressed by government leaders and officials - and support a global campaign to counter it
- Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status – be they considered “regular” or “irregular” migrants
- Pay particular attention to safeguarding the rights of women and girls, protecting them from all forms of violence and exploitation, and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in decision-making on refugee and migrant issues
- Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival, to ensure their rights to free expression
- Strengthen the opportunities for migrants to make positive contributions to economic and social development in their countries of resettlement
- Fulfil the cultural rights of displaced writers and communities by ensuring access to local culture, supporting their cultural practices and freedom of expression, and enabling cultural expression as a means to produce intercultural dialogue and exchange For more information please contact Ingrid Brandvik, PEN International, firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 7575 030028