Barcelona was one of the first cities to integrate the International Network of Cities of Asylum, established in 1994 by the International Parliament of Writers which was legally dissolved in June 2005 for bureaucratic and legal reasons. During this period the city hosted the Albanian Bashkim Shehu and the Cuban Rolando Sánchez-Mejía. Sabadell also joined the network and gave asylum to the Congolese film maker Gilbert Nsangata.
Under the umbrella of ICORN
The Refugee Writer Programme, thus, isn’t new, however it has made significant changes compared to the former programme. The most important one being that it is carried out under the wing of ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network) a legally-constituted network since June 2006. ICORN was founded in order to continue the work of the Writers International Parliament, with the conviction that an organisation that efficiently coordinates cities with writers seeking refuge from their country is essential.
Thirty representatives of the Refuge Cities and associations devoted to the defence of freedom of expression participated in the founding assembly of ICORN, which took place in Stavanger in June 2006. Among the participants was the PEN Català, which was chosen as a member of the Advisory Council. During the assembly, the founding charter of ICORN was approved, as well as the model of agreement between the network and the respective Cities of Refuge. The founding Charter is based on the 19th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which refers to the right to freedom of expression and elaborates on the principles embodied in the Founding Charter of PEN International.