Displaced by xenophobic violence, foreign nationals face trauma, fear and uncertain futures.

Seven weeks after the onset of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal, displacement camps around Durban housing nearly 7,000 people have largely emptied. Most Malawians, Zimbabweans, and Mozambican nationals in the camps were repatriated by bus in an exodus of nearly 4,000 people in just a fortnight.

But about 700 refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo cannot go home – nor do they believe they’ll be safe re-integrating into the communities they fled during the attacks.

They are all housed in one camp in Chatsworth while about 100 other people live in a shelter in Durban, and many others, including Somalis and Ethiopians, remain displaced throughout the city.

Kasai (39) and his wife Coco (34) with their young daughters Aimee and Dorothea in a tented displacement camp where they sought refuge from a wave of xenophobic violence that broke out in Durban. Photo: Greg Lomas
Kasai (39) and his wife Coco (34) with their young daughters Aimee and Dorothea in a tented displacement camp where they sought refuge from a wave of xenophobic violence that broke out in Durban. Photo: Greg Lomas

MSF assists in displacement camps in Durban
Since mid-April a team of 14 people from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been responding to the health needs of people who sought refuge in three camps around Durban – Isipingo, Chatsworth and Phoenix.

Initially MSF provided basic medical care – in collaboration with the provincial health authorities – as well as water and sanitation services to camp residents.

Following the mass repatriations and a decision by authorities to consolidate all the remaining residents into a single camp MSF psychologists assessed people in the Chatsworth camp and found that many exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

The medical team will also support patients during upcoming re-integration efforts.

Find out more about MSF's work in South Africa.