The Fulani, Tuareg, and other nomadic groups of northern Mali move freely across desert borders to and from neighboring countries. As many as 2 million Malians migrate seasonally to Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Libya. In addition, 150,000 Malians fled to Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania in the early 1990s to escape government repression. Between June 1995 and 1999, 131,780 Malian refugees returned home from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. Malian refugees of Tuareg and Moor ethnic origin continue to return. There is also increasing migration from rural to urban areas.
As of 1999, about 6,000 Mauritanians were refugees in Mali's Kayes region. There were also 1,924 urban refugees from 17 African and Middle Eastern countries, predominantly Sierra Leone and Liberia. Of the 16,800 initial Mauritanian refugees, UNHCR helped to repatriate some 10,800. In 2000, the net migration rate was -4.7 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants was 48,000 in that year. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.