Historically, there has been considerable movement over the borders to and from Guinea and Liberia. In the mid-1980s, the number of nonnative Africans was estimated at 30,000. Since the civil war in 1991, hundreds of thousands of refugees have left Sierra Leone. Of these refugees, 250,000 went to Guinea, 120,000 went to Liberia, and 4,000 went to Gambia. Repatriation by the UNHCR began in February 1997, as 1,400 returned home from Liberia and Mali. By February 1998, UNHCR planned to repatriate 240,000 refugees from Guinea, Liberia, and Gambia. With the signing of the Lome peace agreement in 1999, UNHCR planned for the repatriation of the remaining 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees seeking asylum in the subregion, mainly in Guinea and Liberia, but also in Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Nigeria. As of 1999, Sierra Leoneans made up UNHCR's largest refugee caseload in Africa.
In 2000, the net migration rate was -7.8 migrants per 1,000 population. This was a significant drop from -18.7 per 1,000 in 1990. The total number of migrants in the country in 2000 was 47,000, including remaining refugees. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.