The International Cities of Refuge Network – ICORN – is an independent organization based in Norway and founded in 2006 from the remains of an older project called the Cities of Asylum Network initiated in 1993 by the International Parliament of Writers after the assassination of Algerian writers. Since its creation, the network has always strongly defended freedom of expression, democratic values, and international solidarity.
Nowadays, the organization aims to create partnerships with cities around the world that could shelter writers, artists, creators, and intellectuals at risk in their own countries. The partner cities engage themselves to welcome for one to two years people that can’t properly create in their home, offer them a safe haven, a scholarship, and an immersion into the local cultural context. More than 70 cities are now collaborating through the network that has broaden its reach to human rights defenders, bloggers, novelists, musicians, publishers, poets, and journalists. «That’s the point, ICORN is an example of concrete solidarity with creators who are in friction with the authorities at home, or outrightly banned, censored, etc…» indicates Philippe Ollé Laprune, founder and director of the Casa Refugio Citlatepetl in Mexico City.
So far, the network has hosted more than 200 persecuted artists and worked closely with the African continent, particularly with Iraq, Syria, and Muslim countries in general, with Asian countries as well, and more recently with Eastern Europe, but also with Latin American countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, or Brazil. «ICORN has a very simple role which is to identify people who are in need, analyze the seriousness of the proposal and once they are accepted on the ICORN list, send them to such or such spaces», explains Philippe Ollé Laprune. Then the network takes care of the customs details, visas, immigration, and ensure the participation of the residents in artistic, intellectual, and literary activities in the host city.
It is a program created to save if not people then the creativity of people that are in dangerous situations or in great difficulties due to their local context. «I believe that the residency is the moment to put oneself in parentheses and to really find back his taste for work and to concentrate on it for a while, I think that it is very important», confides Philippe Ollé Laprune. The network is present in Latin America in the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil and in Mexico City with two projects, the Casa Africa and the Casa Refugio.