PEN International has launched Make Space, a new campaign aimed at creating opportunities for writers who have experienced forced displacement.

Below is a mission statement signed by over 300 writers – including Stephen Fry, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and Ai Weiwei – from around the world. You can add your name here.

“Our world is in crisis. People have always been forced to move against their will: they’ve fled wars and natural disasters, persecution and violence. But never before has the forced movement of people occurred at such a rate. 1 in 113 people in the world today have been driven from their homes. Simultaneously, a rising climate of nationalistic xenophobia among host nations has made resettlement for those who’ve experienced forced displacement increasingly dangerous and uncertain.

“We recognize how many displaced people are without the most basic needs of shelter and security, and the urgent necessity in addressing the human rights violations and extreme injustices that so many face. We also acknowledge the disadvantages faced by exiled writers: the fear of suspicion and violence, the difficulties in publishing in different and often hostile linguistic markets, the lack of the basic conditions that allow for the cultivation of creativity, and the absence of familiar networks — the faces, words, streets, songs — that come with being home.

“Some of us have been displaced; some of us are refugees and asylum seekers; some of us have lived in exile, or have been forced to go into hiding in our own countries. But we are all writers and use words in ways that can shift and inform the society around us. And – whoever we are, wherever we are – when we consciously make space for the stories of displaced communities within our own, we make space for a shared cultural understanding that enriches us and connects us, disrupting the systems of division that alienate and dehumanise. It is time to act, and to act together.

“Therefore, we commit to PEN International’s Make Space campaign. Together we must shape a context for free expression in which all voices and stories have worth. Together we must challenge xenophobia and racism. Together we will shape a world with space for everyone and – as writers – it is with words and stories that we start.”

Find out more about the campaign here.

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