The City of Asylum program provides safe haven for writers whose voices are muffled by censorship, or who are living with the threat of imprisonment or assassination. In 2001, City of Asylum Las Vegas was founded, the first such program in the United States. Groups in Ithaca, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have since formed similar programs.
Originally, asylum cities operated under the auspices of the International Parliament of Writers in Paris, which oversaw the greater worldwide asylum network of some 35 cities, most of which are in Europe. Upon the dissolution in 2004 of the IPW, the International Cities of Refuge Network was formed in order to serve as an umbrella organization and information clearinghouse for local asylum programs worldwide.
A City of Asylum is a free space, unfettered by censorship or political repression, in which writers who have undergone such hardship may safely practice their craft. Writers are hosted by a city or region for a period of one to two years. The writer receives a $40,000 annual stipend, a home or apartment, and health insurance.