A city of refuge is a city or municipality that has agreed to host a persecuted writer, journalist, artist etc., for up to two years. The cities of refuge are members of ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network, which administers the programme. ICORN has more than 70 member cities worldwide.
There are currently 24 Norwegian cities of refuge: Asker, Bergen, Bodø, Bø, Drøbak, Fredrikstad, Harstad, Haugesund, Horten, Kristiansand, Larvik, Levanger, Lillehammer, Nesodden, Oslo, Sandefjord, Skien, Stavanger, Tromsø, Trondheim, Færder, Tokke, Sarpsborg and Tønsberg. The city of Molde has previously been a city of refuge.
The cities of refuge programme implies that the person who is persecuted for their writings or artistic work will be in safety, and they are guaranteed both protection and the possibility to resume their work for up to two years. Please see ICORN for more information about the programme, how to become a member city, how to apply for relocation, and more.
Since the beginning of the city of refuge programme in Norway in the mid 1990s, PEN Norway has been deeply involved in the programme, with a special responsibility in helping ICORN writers and artists in Norway getting the opportunity to exert their profession from exile and have their work communicated.
PEN Norway has employed a national coordinator who assists the local coordinators in the ICORN cities and the ICORN writers and artists in their efforts to getting involved in local, national and international literary and artistic networks, such as the publishing industry, writers’ and artists’ unions, festivals, the press, etc.
From 2001 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offered an annual grant to each city of refuge to cover some of the expenses these writers have in connection with their work. It is the PEN Norway secretariat that administers this subsidy and has an advisory and contact role with the relevant cities and ministries.
PEN Norway is furthermore entitled to apply to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) regarding relocation for persecuted writers and artists who have been invited to a Norwegian ICORN city. ICORN writers/artists in Norway come to the country on the quota for resettlement refugees, and the majority choose to apply for a permanent permission to stay in Norway, primarily because the situation in their home country does not allow them to return without danger of further persecution or threats.
Please note that PEN Norway is not an asylum seeker or refugee organization.