Globally, more than 80 ICORN Cities of Refuge offer a safe space where writers, artists, and journalists at risk can live and work through the ICORN Programme.
The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is a membership organisation of cities and regions around the world which offer a long-term, temporary residency to persecuted writers, artists, and journalists to carry on their work in safety.
These cities and regions are the cornerstones of ICORN and share a common mission: to preserve and promote freedom of expression, and to respond to politically motivated threats and persecution faced by writers, artists, and journalists in their home countries and beyond.
Thousands of writers, artists, and journalists are persecuted as a direct consequence of their work, and many need a safe place. Through ICORN, your city could enable these writers, artists, and journalists to continue their work and the fight for freedom of expression, which is a vital part of any free society.
This commitment by ICORN cities and regions is both very concrete and deeply symbolic. An agent for change (a writer, artist, or journalist) escapes from imminent threat and persecution. Your city offers sanctuary and the values of hospitality, solidarity, and freedom of expression become further enshrined within the ethos of your city.
A mutually beneficial network
More than 70 ICORN Cities of Refuge have committed to the ICORN Charter. Together, they have hosted over 200 writers, artists, and journalists at risk.
By joining ICORN, your city becomes part of a dynamic and global network of solidarity, creativity, and mutual interaction. To celebrate this, ICORN brings together cities and their residents in an annual gathering of all parties in one of the member cities. A wonderful assembly of ICORN residents, city representatives, partners, and human rights organisations from all over the world meet to assess and scrutinise the situation of freedom of expression and explore new and imaginative ways of confronting repressive regimes and authorities where human rights are under attack.
ICORN residents represent a rich resource for the entire network of cities, bringing new impulses to the cultural life of each city. They contribute knowledge and experience of different cultures in your city whilst enriching our debate, insight, and understanding of the world.
Who can become a member of ICORN?
Any city willing to work for freedom of expression and human rights can commit to the terms of the ICORN Membership Agreement and join ICORN as a City of Refuge.
In signing the ICORN Membership Agreement, your city agrees to:
- Arrange for the relocation and reception of the writer/artist/journalist to the city.
- Facilitate the acquisition of legal status for the writer/artist/journalist,
- Provide the writer/artist/journalist and their family with appropriate dwelling.
- Provide the writer/artist/journalist with an appropriate scholarship or grant for their period of stay.
- Help the writer/artist/journalist to integrate with the local community, both socially and artistically.
- Appoint an ICORN City of Refuge coordinator to support the writer/artist/journalist in legal and practical matters.
How does a city become a member of ICORN?
A city becomes an ICORN member by signing and committing to the ICORN Membership Agreement.
Before committing to the Membership Agreement, your city needs to identify formal partners, establish finance and backing for the programme, find a coordinating institution and accommodation for the ICORN residents.
Financing and running an ICORN City of Refuge varies from city to city. Your city’s management model will depend on the national and city legislation, regulations, partnerships, cultural offers, and funding opportunities.
ICORN will assist you in finding the best solution for your city.
In Paris City of Refuge, the Municipality of Paris is the official ICORN host in partnership with the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris Biblilothèques, Reporters Sans Frontières and Maison des Journalistes, amongst others.
In Brussels City of Refuge, it is the International House of Literature, Passa Porta, which manages the daily running of the ICORN Programme. Passa Porta works in an agreement with four universities which partly sponsor the hosted ICORN residents on the condition that the hosted residents will participate in lectures and workshops at the universities.
Barcelona ICORN City of Refuge is primarily coordinated and financed by Catalan PEN.
In Scandinavian countries, an ICORN City of Refuge is typically run by the public library, and sometimes by social security services or refugee organisations. For example, Skien City of Refugee in Norway is managed partnership between the Municipality of Skien and the public library. The managing institutions and partners in Levanger City of Refuge, also in Norway, is Levanger Library, Levanger Cultural Office, and Levanger Refugee Office. On the other hand, the Municipality of Växjö, Sweden is an ICORN member, and the programme is run by The House for Free Speech and the cultural and leisure services.
You can visit the individual city pages to learn more about how each ICORN City of Refuge is managed.
Make a difference and sign up!
With the world becoming an ever more dangerous place for those campaigning for human right, ICORN is in need more member cities. In this way, we will be able to help as many people as possible to keep up the fight for freedom of expression which is so crucial for the functioning of free societies.
We encourage any city/organisation/person that wishes to get involved in ICORN to contact us and find solutions on joining the network.
You can find more information in the ICORN Membership Agreement about the nature of the commitment and the cooperation between each City of Refuge and ICORN.
FAQ for ICORN Cities of Refuge and ICORN Residencies
Please see the FAQ for ICORN Cities of Refuge for more details on being an ICORN City of Refuge.
You can also learn more about the ICORN Residencies in the FAQ for writers/artists/journalists at risk.