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Voices from the Camps: Refugees share their stories

A series of testimonials explores what foreign nationals are currently experiencing.

FILE: Some 7,000 people are thought to have been affected by the spate of attacks in April 2015. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - "My name is Dolly... I was born in South Africa," the little girl says with self-assurance.

But yet the nine-year-old finds herself in a camp for displaced foreigners.

Dolly Makwakwa's mother is Mozambican and the family is among those who fled the xenophobic violence which terrorised thousands of refugees and migrants across South Africa.

Some 7,000 people are thought to have been affected by the spate of attacks in April 2015.

Although many of those ultimately chose repatriation to their native Malawi, Mozambique or Zimbabwe; hundreds remain stuck between a rock and a hard place - too scared to return to their homes in Durban and too afraid to go back to the nations they fled.

Watch: The story of nine-year-old Dolly Makwakwa is the fifth and final video testimony released by MSF, featuring refugees and migrants displaced by the wave of xenophobic violence in April 2015.

According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) some 520 people, predominantly Burundian and Congolese, remain at the last camp in Chatsworth; the other two shut down.

The instability and threat of war at home has left these people with little choice but to remain in hostile South Africa, despite official refugee status - an unimaginable cruelty imposed upon the already-traumatised individuals.

MSF, which originally assisted with medical aid, water and sanitation, says it was compelled to step in to help address the psychological pain experienced by camp residents.

MSF psychologist Penni Cox says, "The kind of trauma we see in the camp is similar to what my MSF colleagues have witnessed in South Sudan and Central African Republic where people have been exposed to active conflicts.

"Our interviews with Chatsworth camp residents indicated they have suffered cumulative traumas. First they have experienced violence in their country of origin; again during the 2008 xenophobic violence, and yet again now in 2015. They also tell us about the daily level of discrimination and alienation they experience - at hospitals, getting around in minibus taxis and from police elsewhere."

Watch: Malawian national Steven Mware had been working at a non-profit organisation for the disabled.

The organisation has now sought to highlight the plight of the remaining camp residents through releasing a five-part video testimonial series, culminating on Africa Day, 25 May.

In the testimonials we hear from the refugees themselves, who relate their heart-breaking stories.

Nine year-old Makwakwa questions the concept of nationality, while Malawian migrant worker Steven Mware is intent on going home as soon as it is safe to do so.

Watch: Congolese father and husband Martin Katana arrived in Durban after fleeing ongoing civil conflict in the DRC in 2006.

Until April 2015, Martin Katana lived with his wife Digne Irakoze and their six-month-old daughter, Mika, in Chatsworth.

Xenophobic antagonism is something they have experienced in almost all aspects of daily life.

He brought his family to relative safety in Chatsworth camp, but the realities of life are harsh.

With little in the way of resettlement packages, his baby's ill health and few prospects of employment despite refugee status, Katana worries about his family's future.

Watch: Congolese businessman Amuri Djuma's story.

Amuri Djuma came to South Africa in 2004; leaving behind conflict in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He worked several jobs before opening his own furniture store and hairdressing business, which employed South Africans.

During the wave of xenophobic attacks in Durban, Djuma's shop was looted and 80 percent of his stock was stolen. But he still hopes to rebuild his life in Durban.

"You can still achieve anything if you are alive, you need to focus on what is next," he says.

Watch: Burundian nurse Elvira Modesero's story.

The derogatory term 'kwerekwere' is a word Elvira Modesero has heard many times.

The Burundian nurse, who made it her life's mission to help other people, has been a refugee in South Africa since 2004.

She has experienced the pain of derision, even from patients, while working in hospital.

In her testimony she talks candidly about her view of the equal value of human life.

"I'm a human being - a creation of God. So I cannot, like, separate myself from a South African and I, Burundian. The same blood is flowing in us..."

Since early May the MSF team has provided more than 200 psychological counselling sessions among groups and for individuals, including children.