History's Biggest Mass Deportations and What the Consequences Were

The looming threat of Trump deportations are a worry for many inhabitants of the United States in 2017. The Orange President vowed to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants within the first few days of being elected. If, over the course of his time in office, he succeeds, it will be the biggest mass deportation in the nation’s history, and one of the biggest mass deportations in history. 

In the early days of Trump's presidency, immigrant arrests and detentions increased by 38 percent compared to the same time the year before. However, deportations are down by a little over one percent, as fewer undocumented immigrants are crossing the US-Mexico border. As of 2017, it remains to be seen whether Trump will make good on his campaign promise. It behooves the public to remember Trump isn't the first US president or world leader to attempt a mass deportation.

What Trump, along with presidents Hoover and Eisenhower before him, aimed to do is externally deport Mexican-Americans. The world has a long history of mass deportations, which were carried out in a variety of ways and for a number of causes. In many cases, these deportations were accompanied by an extermination of groups being removed. This is a list of the most impactful and largest mass deportations in history.


  • The Partition Of India And Pakistan - Around 15 Million

    The Partition Of India And Pakistan - Around 15 Million
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    As a final, brutal middle finger to the Indian subcontinent, the British government partitioned the region into two separate nations when colonial rule ended in 1947: India and Pakistan. Hindus and Muslims were instantly pitted against each other; the latter formed the majority in Pakistan, the former did so in India. 

    The division led to one of the greatest human migrations in history. Around 15 million people fled their homes as widespread violence between the two religious groups claimed the lives of around one million people.

    While the mass movement of people across the borders of India and Pakistan is typically desribed as a migration, it occurred as a result parties beyond local control creating an environment of hostility and violence that essentially forced large portions of the population to leave ancestral homelands to remote parts of the subcontinent to avoid persecution, harassment, beatings, and death. The British government inadvertantly presented tens of millions of people with an ultimatum - leave, or suffer and maybe die. 

  • The Final Solution - Between 6 And 9 Million

    The Final Solution - Between 6 And 9 Million
    Photo: Bild Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Holocaust was a massive deportation of Jews and other ethnic groups to death and hard labor camps primarily located in Poland. Like many of the other deportations on this list, Hitler’s “Final Solution” was a plan to remove unwanted peoples from Germany and other occupied nations. Between 1942 and the end of World War II, millions of Jews were deported, six million of whom were systematically murdered under orders from the Nazi high command. 

  • Soviet Era Deportations - Around 6 Million

    Soviet Era Deportations - Around 6 Million
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union ordered massive internal deportations and executions of millions. This began in the 1930s, when Stalin ordered the deportation of dozens of ethnic groups as punishment for their perceived political leanings. These included Chechens in the Caucasus region, Volga region Germans, Kurds, and Crimean Tatars. Stalin moved these groups away from the front to areas deep within the Soviet Union, like Siberia.  

    The deportation of Chechen people is considered genocide; it's estimated some 30% of the population died in the four years following the deportation. Throughout the ‘40s, the deportations continued in places like the Baltic States; more than 57,000 Latvians were deported or sent to the Gulags. In 1941, 10,000 Estonians were deported; the men were sent to the Gulags.

    In 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of the Crimean peninsula. More than 230,000 Crimean Tatars were deported, primarily to Uzbekistan. Nearly half of those deportees died between 1944 and 1947. It's estimated a total of six million people were internally deported from ancestral homelands to remote parts of the Soviet Union. 

  • Mexican Repatriation In The 1930s - Around 2 Million

    Before Trump’s election promise to deport millions of Mexicans from the United States, President Herbert Hoover succeeded in expelling about two million Mexican Americans in the early 1930s. This mass deportation became known as Mexican Repatriation, and remains a blight on America's history. What’s even more disturbing is that more than half of those expelled were American citizens, born in the United States.

    During the Great Depression, there was a growing sentiment among white Americans that Mexicans were taking jobs and resources away from “true” citizens, a sentiment that is disturbingly echoed in the 21st century. Many believed that even though the majority of these Mexicans were citizens, a true American citizen had to be white. There were major roundups of Mexican workers in workplaces and in public. This massive deportation tore apart families and placed many Mexican- American citizens in a country in which they’d never even stepped foot.