Norwegian Cities of Refuge

A city of refuge is a city that has agreed to host a persecuted writer, journalist, artist etc., for up to two years. The cities of refuge are connected to ICORN, International Cities of Refuge Network, which administers the programme. The Cities of Refuge programme implies that the person who is persecuted for their expression will be in safety, and they are guaranteed peace of mind to resume their work. The resident writers represent the countless other writers around the world who are persecuted, imprisoned or who have been forever silenced. By being a city of refuge, not only does the city take an important stand in relation to freedom of expression, it also contributes concretely to help or save a human being. The Norwegian cities of refuge commit to receiving a persecuted writer, journalist or artist and, if that is the case, their spouse and children for two years and provide accommodation and necessary living expenses. Since the establishment of the city of refuge programme in Norway in the mid 90s, Norwegian PEN has had a special responsibility in helping resident writers in Norway get the opportunity to exert their profession from exile and have their work disseminated. From 2001 the state gives, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an annual grant to each city of refuge to cover expenses these writers have in connection with their work. It is the Norwegian PEN who administers this subsidy and at the same time has an advisory and contact role with the relevant cities and ministries. Nowadays there are more than 60 cities of refuge which are connected to ICORN. Seventeen of these are in Norway: Asker, Bergen, Bø, Drøbak, Harstad, Haugesund, Horten, Kristiansand, Larvik, Levanger, Lillehammer, Molde, Oslo, Skien, Stavanger, Tromsø and Trondheim. Read more about the resident writers.

ICORN – International Cities of Refuge Network

ICORN, the international cities of refuge network, was established to offer persecuted writers a sanctuary, or a refuge, where they will be able to write and express themselves freely, without fear of being censored or silenced. ICORN brings writers to the cities of refuge and helps communication between the cities and writers who are at any time part of the network. ICORN was established in 2006 as a project of Sølvberget, Stavanger’s House of Culture. In January 2010 ICORN was officially established as an independent, international membership organization. An international board is selected for the new organization, and the General Assembly, consisting of representatives of member cities. Anders Heger, board member of Norwegian PEN, has been appointed as an observer in ICORN’s board. ICORN is based in Stavanger and is operated in close cooperation with the other Norwegian cities of refuge, as well as Norwegian PEN and PEN International. It is the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International that has an overview of writers who are persecuted and need protection. You can read information about the “Norwegian Literary System” – our organizations for writers, playwrights, translators, their membership criteria and information about support and scholarships: Information about Norwegian organizations for writers on FARSI Information about Norwegian organizations for writers on ARABIC Information about Norwegian organizations for writers on NORWEGIAN Important information about Norwegian PEN and asylum seekers

How does the programme work?
Resident writers in Norway come to the country on the quota for resettlement refugees, and have the opportunity to stay in the country also after their formal status as a resident writer, a period that lasts two years, is over. The majority of the writers choose to remain in Norway, primarily because the situation in their home country does not allow them to travel home without danger of persecution or threats. Norwegian PEN is entitled to appeal to the UDI regarding resettlement refugees and sends every year several applications for entry and residence permit for the writers/journalists/artists who the Norwegian cities of refuge wish to invite as their new resident writer. In Norway, as of December 1, 2017, there are more than 60 current and former resident writers. The role of host cities and municipalities is primarily that of coordination. The cities appoint a coordinator who is responsible for assisting the author in exercising their work, as well as developing their authorship. Nowegian PEN has employed a national coordinator who assists the coordinators and the authors in their efforts to safeguard the authors’ ability to write, publish and disseminate the authors’ work. Emphasis is placed on involving authors in local, national and international literary environments, including the publishing industry, national writer organizations, festivals, the press, etc.

PEN wants to initiate projects that could exploit the author’s various potentials and prepare possible artistic engagement in the region he/she chooses to settle in the city after their period as resident writer is over. Norwegian PEN is dependent on external project funding for this.