In 1944 Crimean Tatars were deported from the Crimean Peninsula as a result of state-organized and forcible action, ordered by then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
Deportation began on 18 May 1944 in all Crimean inhabited localities. More than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to Uzbekistan. This includes the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time numbering about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as smaller number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians. The lack of accommodation facilities and food, failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of Crimean Tatars' exile. According to 1960s surveys conducted by Crimean Tatar activists, more than 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947 because of starvation and disease. From May to November 1944 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (9% of those deported to the Uzbek SSR). Nearly 30,000 (20%) died in exile during the first year and a half according to the Soviet secret police data. As Soviet dissident information attests, many Crimean Tatars were forced to work in large-scale projects implemented by the Soviet GULAG system.
Although in 1967 a Soviet decree withdrew the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement to Crimea and to make reparations for the lost lives and confiscated property. Crimean Tatars, led by Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of Perestroika in the mid-1980s. Return of Crimean Tatars to Crimea became possible in 1987 and since then has been large scale. In the early 90s the Crimean Tatars were the third largest ethnic group in Crimea.
Since Ukraine's independence, the Government of Ukraine assumed responsibility for ensuring rights and freedoms of all Ukrainians, including those returning to Ukraine after deportation. Declaration of Rights of Nationalities of Ukraine, Laws "On Minorities in Ukraine", "On Restoration of Rights of Persons Deported on Ethnic Grounds" are key Ukrainian legal acts on protecting the rights of deported people. Government of Ukraine adopted following programs on social adaptation of Crimean Tatars: "Programme on promotion social adaptation of Crimean Tatar youth in 2002-2005" (2002), "Programme on resettlement of deported Crimean Tatars and other nationalities, who returned to Ukraine for residence, their adaptation and integration into Ukrainian society for the period until 2010" (2006, extended until 2015).
In February-March, 2014 Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula lead to significant violations of international law and human rights. Crimean Tatars suffered harassment and persecution by Russian occupation authorities and their proxies. As of today, 21 representatives of Crimean Tatars were kidnapped, three of them found dead, more than 130 criminal cases against Crimean Tatars were opened.
As a result of Russia's occupation policy, more than 10,000 of Crimean Tatars had to leave Crimea and settle mostly in other parts of continental Ukraine. Many Crimean Tatars activists are banned from entering Crimea.
Ukrainian authorities take numerous measures to protect the rights and freedoms of Crimean Tatars. Mr.Mustafa Jemilev, MP and former Head of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar nation, was appointed as the President's representative on Crimean Tatars. On March 30, 2014 the Parliament of Ukraine passed a decree "On Acknowledging Crimean Tatars as Indigenous People of Ukraine", special department on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was established within the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and inter-party "Crimea" union was established by MPs.
UN, OSCE ODIHR, Council of Europe and other international organizations draw attention to numerous cases when Ukrainian locals, especially Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists, were kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned by Russian occupation authorities.
The responsibility for all violations of human rights in Crimea rests with the Russian Federation as an occupying authority under international law.