What is an ICORN City of Refuge?
ICORN is an international membership organisation for cities and regions dedicated to freedom of expression and human rights. Each ICORN member is a City of Refuge and provides temporary shelter through residencies for persecuted writers, artists, and journalists. The ICORN residency typically lasts for two years.
These ICORN Cities of Refuges are the cornerstones of ICORN and share a common mission: to advance freedom of expression and make a practical contribution to the threats and persecution faced by writers, artists, and journalists in their home countries and beyond.
How many members does ICORN have?
More than 70 cities have committed to the ICORN Charter. The list is continously expanding and will soon include cities in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. Our members include Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, Mexico City, Krakow, Norwich, Växjö, and Bergen.
Who can become an ICORN City of Refuge?
Any city willing to make a commitment to freedom of expression and the ICORN Membership Agreement can become a member of ICORN. To be able to offer more residencies to the growing number or writers, artists, and journalists who apply, ICORN needs more members. See the ICORN Cities of Refuge Membership Guide for more information.
Why should my city become an ICORN City of Refuge?
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.
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.
What does an ICORN City of Refuge do?
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 is an ICORN City of Refuge managed?
This varies from city to city and depends on the structural and financial configuration of the membership. Each ICORN City of Refuge is managed in accordance with its own national and city legislation, regulation, partnership agreements, and cultural offers. The ICORN Secretariat assists each member with practical and promotional matters.
Generally, the municipality/city/region is responsible for the bulk of the financing, with support from various partners, and other public, private, local, national, and international sources to take care of the practical running of the programme.
Some ICORN Cities of Refuge have special agreements concerning both finance and organisation.
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.
How much does it cost to be a member of ICORN?
The ICORN General Assembly, held every other year, determines the membership fee amount. Both regions and cities can be members.
Currently, the ICORN membership fee for a city is €2300. A region pays €1750 for a membership, and each member city part of the member region pays an annual fee of €1750.
How much does it cost to run an ICORN City of Refuge and who covers the expenses?
ICORN Cities of Refuge are independently managed and financially self-sufficient. Who covers the cost of each programme varies and is dependent on the individual city’s consortium of partners and standard agreements. The basic costs included in hosting an ICORN resident for the standard period of two years should cover:
- Furnished residential accommodation for the ICORN resident and their family.
- A scholarship/grant no the ICORN resident for the period of their stay. The amount of the scholarship/grant is agreed with the ICORN Secretariat.
- All travel expenses concerning the journey of the ICORN resident and their family. From their country of residence to your city, as well as departure at the termination of the residency. These expenses will include fees for visas, passports, etc.
- The salary of an ICORN city coordinator(s) who will work with the ICORN resident and their family to facilitate their integration and promotion within the host city.
- Appropriate working and living conditions for the ICORN resident and their family for the duration of their stay.
- Health and residential insurances for the ICORN resident and their family for the period of the residence.
- Assess to services which will enable the ICORN resident to learn the language of the host country.
- The annual ICORN membership fee (see above).
How can the city provide the writer/artist/journalist with visa and residence permits?
When an ICORN City of Refuge has decided and invited a writer/artist/journalist for a residence and the offer has been accepted, the process of obtaining visas and residency permits for the ICORN resident and their family begins. This procedure depends both on the receiving country and the country which the incoming ICORN resident is leaving. ICORN will advise and guide the city through this process drawing on previous experiences with different host cities.
How long is an ICORN residency?
The standard length of an ICORN residency is two years, unless otherwise agreed with the ICORN Secretariat.
How do the ICORN resident and the city work together?
The ICORN City of Refuge designates a coordinator to work with the ICORN resident and help them integrate within the city, and support them in legal, professional, promotional, and practical matters.
Writers, artists, and journalists who apply to ICORN have very diverse backgrounds and expectations for their residency. Equally, this applies to the ICORN cities. Close cooperation and dialogue between the ICORN coordinator and ICORN resident about their needs, skills, and wishes, is vital and highly recommended.
The ICORN resident should be included in relevant professional and social events in the host city for mutually beneficial outcomes. The designated coordinator will help to facilitate these opportunities, whilst exploring potential national and international events, networks, and partnerships.
The designated coordinator will help to facilitate these opportunities, while also exploring potential national and international networks and partnerships.
How do ICORN residents experience being hosted in an ICORN City of Refuge?
Naturally, the experiences of ICORN residents vary a lot and are dependent on many factors, such as their background, their relationship with the host city and ICORN coordinator, language abilities, potential audiences, networks, and social integration amongst others.
It is crucial to remember that although ICORN residents are victims of persecutions, they are also advocates of free speech and free thinkers who have been given a new opportunity to work and express themselves freely. A lot of ICORN residents will find inspiration to keep working and will participate in the ICORN city and network activities. Many also continue reaching out to audiences and networks in their home countries, particularly through digital and social media.
Most writers and artists come from backgrounds where their work is well-known and appreciated and where they have a loyal network of people and platforms. In their ICORN Cities of Refuge, ICORN residents often need to establish a new professional and social life. They need to build new networks, explore other cultural, professional, and political arenas, and find new audiences. Given the language and cultural differences, there can sometimes be some frustrating experiences. Therefore, a close relationship between the ICORN city coordinator and the ICORN resident is vital from the beginning of the residency.
Some of our former ICORN residents have written about the experiences of expectations meeting reality in their ICORN City of Refuge. You can read them by following the links below.
Basim Mardan (Iraq)
Najati Tayara (Syria)
Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe)
Who does ICORN work with?
ICORN cooperates with a growing range of networks, organisations, and institutions at local, regional, national, and international levels. At the core of its identity, ICORN is a cultural, human rights, and freedom of expression organisation.
Culturally, we are engaged in local initiatives within the ICORN member cities, national arts councils, and a wide range of international literature, arts, and music festivals.
In the field of human rights and freedom of expression, we work closely with organisations such as PEN International, Article 19, Reporters without Borders, FreeDimensional, Scholars at Risk, Frontline Defenders, Freemuse, Arts, Rights & Justice, On the Move, Tactical tech and many more. Since 2010, ICORN has taken part in relevant programmes organised by the European Parliament and the European Commission, particularly the EU’s initiative to set up a global system of shelter for human rights defenders.
ICORN is continuously developing its relationships with new and existing partners and supporters to increase its capacity to protect and promote writers, artists, journalists, and human rights defenders at risk across the world.
How is ICORN financed?
As an independent, non-profit membership organisation, ICRON is reliant on the support of trusts and foundations, public and private donors, and membership fees. The individual ICORN Cities of Refuge are independently financed and managed.
Our primary supporters are:
- SAC- Swedish Arts Council
- Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Stavanger Municipality
- Fritt Ord - The Fritt Ord Foundation
- ICORN Cities through membership fees.
For more information, see our partners and supporters page.
How is ICORN governed?
ICORN is both decentralised and coordinated. The Secretariat in Stavanger, Norway, serves as the communication hub for the independently managed ICORN Member Cities.
The International Board consists of Member City representatives, elected by the General Assembly every two years.
To find more information about the organisation, please click here.
How do cities and ICORN work together?
The ICORN City of Refuge is responsible for all practical and promotional matters of the residency but the ICORN Secretariat assists throughout the process- from pre-residency to post-residency as well as the duration of the stay itself.
ICORN also functions as the communication hub between the ICORN Cities of Refuge and the ICORN writers, artists, and journalist in the network.
Please read the ICORN Membership Agreement for more detail on the cooperation between ICORN and its member cities.
How does a writer/artist/journalist become an ICORN resident?
Please see the application and evaluation procedures for writers, artists, and journalists at risk.
Who and what decides which writer/artist/journalist my city will host?
The ICORN City of Refuge selects in resident in agreement with ICORN and based on the proposal by the ICORN Secretariat.
The ICORN Secretariat receives, assesses, and approves applications from writers, artists, and journalists. When an applicant has been approved for an ICORN residency, ICORN tries to match the writer/artist/journalist with an ICORN City of Refuge as suitably as possible. This depends on the urgency of the case, the capacity of the city, and other factors such as cultural profile.
ICORN then presents a list of potential residents to the city which makes the final decision and issues an invitation.
How can my 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.
We encourage any city/organisation/person that wishes to get involved in ICORN to contact us and find solutions on joining the network.
If you have any futher questions or think there is any other information we should add to the FAQs, please contact us.