Transformation starts from within, this is where we have decided we will be


Over the coming weeks, the newly built facility on Samos called RIC Zervou will start hosting the residents living in and around Vathy camp. For us, being present in RIC Zervou brings up many mixed feelings. On the one hand, basic infrastructure is present, with isoboxes each equipped with its own kitchen and bathroom. On the other hand, the camp is difficult to access, located in the centre of the island. It lacks colour, greenery and community areas. It lacks a feeling of dignity. 

For us, one thing remains clear. We as Movement On The Ground will play a role and do everything we can to bring positive change to RIC Zervou. Why? Because Zervou will become the new home of the Vathy camp community we have worked with, bonded with, cried with and laughed with since 2019. If they move, we will move. For us, it's about the people living inside the facility, not the facility itself. It's about Abdul, about Zead, about all the other men, women, families and children who have the right to feel safe, enabled and included. 

We will stand beside this community, no matter what. We will stand beside them with the vision to transform Zervou into a more healing and enabling environment. We will remain in dialogue with and advocate to the stakeholders that can help us achieve the change we envision. Transformation starts from within. This is where we have decided we will be. 

We're a small grassroots organisation and we do not have all the answers. Though below section may provide you with some answers to the most common questions pertaining to this topic. Should you have any further questions, please contact us via

Why are Vathy camp residents being relocated to a new RIC?

The newly built reception and identification centre on Samos has been a work in progress for quite some years now. It was deemed by both the European Commission and Greek government that a new camp with better infrastructure and facilities would replace that of Vathy camp. Overfilled camps in such regions like Samos have been a chronic problem since large numbers of displaced people started arriving in Europe from 2015 onwards. Vathy camp is one of them. 

Located above the main city of Samos, Vathy camp and its surrounding areas have long been unfit for living. Conditions inside and around the camp are dire, with the majority of the population living in makeshift shelters with no access to sufficient running water, electricity and other basic amenities. The newly built camp on Samos intends to address these key basic needs Vathy camp could not fulfil, according to both the European Commission and Greek government.

For further answers in regards to this question, it is recommended to reach out to the responsible authorities. 

How did MOTG help the community of Vathy camp in the last few years?

Over the past two and half years, Movement On The Ground has played an active role relieving the situation for all involved in and around Vathy camp on Samos. Recognising the unhygienic conditions, particularly in the surroundings of the camp, our mission on Samos started with a community-based waste and hygiene improvement program. Our presence expanded to identifying and referring unaccompanied minors to receive education, housing and legal support. We set up a community-based sports program, provided emergency relief in several crisis situations, engaged in large non-food-item (NFI) distributions and very recently a WASH program. All of these programs and services were provided in collaboration with the Vathy camp community and together with other organisations on the ground, in line with MOTG’s Camp to campUs philosophy. 

What is the Camp to CampUs philosophy?

At the core of MOTG’S mission is the “Camp to campUs” philosophy, a belief that all refugee camps should be more inclusive and self-sufficient, enabling refugee populations to feel safe, empowered and connected to their host community. The transforming of camps into healing and dignified places. A village-like environment. A community. Where every resident feels recognised, included and cared for. A place that enables people to connect, learn and develop skills. This is what we intend to be doing in the new RIC on Samos.

How are the Vathy camp residents reacting to this decision?

The residents of Vathy camp have openly expressed their disappointment and frustration about the opening of a new facility on Samos. The majority are not open to being relocated to a new facility on the island. Movement On The Ground recognises the frustration and anger amongst the residents. We are doing what we can, within our current capacity, to provide support and a listening ear to the residents of Vathy camp during this time. We have always worked with and for the community of Vathy and we will continue doing so during this time of change and uncertainty. 

How does Movement On The Ground feel about the opening of this new facility on Samos?

In an ideal world, Movement On The Ground would not be needed as an organisation and refugees would not live in camps, however the current reality regarding the refugee situation in Europe still requires the attention of organisations that can bring humane and dignified solutions. Movement On The Ground acknowledges the existence of the new camp and understands that it will house former Vathy camp residents. We feel this camp requires organisations, including MOTG, to provide direct support to the residents and ensure the facility is as dignified as possible. 

Has Movement On The Ground publicly expressed any opinion towards this decision?

Movement On The Ground has long been pushing for humane, sustainable solutions in response to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. This extends to Samos, where we have been active for the past two and a half years. Movement On The Ground believe that all camps should be a safe, healing and dignified environment, this extends to the new facility on Samos. MOTG is pushing for this camp to embody the Camp to campUs philosophy. This has been expressed amongst authorities, governments and other organisations.

Why has Movement On The Ground decided to work in this new facility on Samos?

Movement On The Ground believes that the most effective way to ​​transform refugee hotspots towards safe, healing, enabling and dignified environments is from within. This means working with and for refugee communities, shoulder-to-shoulder with all stakeholders and within the system, if and when necessary. 

Movement On The Ground anticipated the opening of the new camp on Samos. In foreseeing this, we knew we would eventually have to make a decision as to whether we would work inside the new camp and if so, how. We had long, in-depth internal discussions about the new camp and consciously and collectively made the decision that we can make the most positive impact for the residents if we are working inside the camp. We would then have the opportunity to introduce healing and enabling programs, engage in open dialogues with relevant stakeholders including authorities and be a listening ear to the concerns of refugees. We must not forget that thousands of humans will continue to live in dire conditions and that emergencies can happen at any time whilst they are in waiting. Alleviating their conditions as they wait for the ‘home’ they came looking for is a must for us. 

How did other organisations on the ground react to this decision?

Movement On The Ground has always worked closely with the other organisations present in and around Vathy camp. Together, we have implemented programs and projects, carried out emergency response and organised camp-wide NFI distributions. There is a great amount of mutual respect amongst the organisations on Samos, even amongst those who have a different mission and vision. Our decision to work inside the new RIC on Samos was a discussion point amongst the other organisations on the island. We ensured that our reasoning to do so was clear and our intention as an organisation is to continue standing with and for the residents, doing our best to ensure them the most dignified life possible whilst in this facility. 

How will the Vathy camp residents be relocated to the new RIC on Samos?

The relocation and transfer of the people to the new reception centre is not within our mandate and remain under the responsibility of the Ministry of Migration and other designated organisations. 

What does Movement On The Ground plan to do in the new RIC on Samos?

In light of this relocation to the new RIC on Samos, Movement On The Ground has taken the decision to be present in the new reception centre to provide services and programs that will improve the overall livelihood and address the specific needs of the community. At this moment we foresee these programs and services in line with our Camp to campUs philosophy, this can include, sports, digital literacy, community building, gardening etc. We will continue to support the community of Vathy camp within our capacity and in any way we can during this transition period, following our camp to campUs approach.

Is it okay for an organisation like Movement On The Ground to take part in a new RIC rather than putting pressure on the EU to process applications?

As a small grassroots organisation, we do not have the power to change governmental decisions. We take a conscious decision to work inside and around refugee camps as here we believe we can create the most positive impact with and for the residents. For us, the fundamental rights of people on the move come first and foremost. Ones we have long advocated for. Ones we will continue to advocate for on a European level through open dialogue in request for systematic change. Ones we will continue to advocate for on the ground through positive, actionable influence. But in the meantime, let us not forget that thousands of humans will continue to live in dire conditions and that emergencies can happen at any time while they wait. Alleviating their conditions as they wait for the ‘home’ they came looking for is a must. 

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