Some civilians are fleeing areas where fighting is taking place, while others fear there could be revenge attacks against those believed to be Tuareg.
The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday said 10,000 people had crossed into Niger after fighting in towns just across the border, and the ICRC was preparing to provide food and shelter.
“Some of these people have been taken in by villagers, but the local capacity was quickly overwhelmed,” said Juerg Eglin, head of the ICRC in Niger.
Another 5,000 people fled to Mauritania, according to an official who works at an international humanitarian organisation based in Mauritania’s capital.
The Tuaregs, a traditionally nomadic people spread across the Sahara Desert, have risen up against Mali’s government several times since the country’s independence from France in 1960.
The latest rebellion, launched last month, is being fuelled by the return from Libya of Tuaregs who had fought in Muammar Gaddafi’s army.