Report claims some 400 workers die in construction site of 3rd airport in İstanbul

The Turkish authorities have covered up the deaths of 400 construction workers during the construction of the controversial third airport in İstanbul, according to a report by Cumhuriyet daily on Monday.

According to the report, scandals have been taking place in terms of work safety in the construction of the 3rd airport, which has attracted the reaction of environmentalists and scientists due to its destruction of nature. It is claimed that dozens of construction workers have lost their lives so far at the construction site of third airport where 31,000 workers registered to work.

According to Cumhuriyet daily’s report, the employees have described the construction site as a “graveyard.” The workers told that the employers have put pressure on workers to hurry up and there is no work safety measures in the construction site. They have said the deaths have been hid by the employers by giving money to the victims’ families who have been coming from Anatolian cities. A lot of foreign workers also work at the construction site.

The third airport in İstanbul will open on Oct. 29, 2018, Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan was quoted on Feb. 10 by state-run Anadolu news agency as saying. Eighty percent of the construction of the airport, which Turkish government says will be one of the world’s biggest, is completed, Arslan said. The project is designed to accommodate growing traffic in a major hub.

A truck driver has told Cumhuriyet daily that “Recently a worker from Ordu province was killed in front of my eyes by a high-toned vehicle, which weighs some 80 tons, used by a Vietnamese driver. I followed this event in particular. No newspaper, no television channel or social media have covered this incident. Let me give you another example, a rope was broken while the big stones used in the construction of the metro were carried. Three stones, each 3,5 tons, fell on two child workers. I have not heard any news of these deaths in the Turkish media. Even the ambulances did not come and they took the children with a private car. The construction of the airport has so far reported about 400 workers dead.”

The same worker has claimed that “the killed worker’s families have been given TL 400,000 as compensation. “If that worker lives and works for 400 years, he can not see that money together. And the our people say that is ‘destiny.’ The families are forced to take that money to stay silent. As some people win money, some people’s lives have been a dungeon in this way.”

The Turkish Labor Ministry has announced on February 13, 2018 that only 27 workers have been killed in the construction of İstanbul’s third airport since it began in May 2015. “Some 27 workers have been killed in various incidents involving health struggles and road accidents during the third Airport’s Construction since it began in May, 2015, according to the Social Security Institution (SGK) data,” the ministry stated.

Veli Ağbaba, a deputy from the main opposition People Republican’s Party (CHP), submitted a written questionnaire to the parliament, asking Labor Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu to provide information the nature of the industrial accidents that took place in the construction of the airport and the number of workers killed and injured. The questionnaire came after reports claimed that 400 workers were killed in work accidents at the site.

The ministry’s statement, issued as a response, also said ministry personnel have been continuing “non-stop” inspections on the site, which covers a 3,5 million square meter area of ground.

Ağbaba, who is also a coordinator of the CHP’s labor bureaus, had previously raised concerns about worker safety after the number of workers killed in accidents increased by 10 percent during the ongoing state of emergency. “The state of emergency is encouraging workplace unsafety, negligence, disorganization and workplace violence. Turkey is experiencing the worst time under the state of emergency,” Ağbaba said.

The number of child laborers are also at an alarming level, according to the CHP deputy, who said that in 2012, there were 601,000 child workers, but the number was now approaching 2 million, all of who work unregistered.

Turkey has built high-speed railways, suspension bridges and undersea tunnels to boost the construction industry and domestic demand. The airport is among Turkey’s mega-projects which include a third bridge across the Bosphorus that opened in 2016 and plans to build a huge canal in İstanbul that would render a large chunk of the city an island.

Incoming flights will be directed to the new airport from the existing Atatürk Airport as soon as the new one opens, the agency quoted Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan saying. The transition to the new site will be completed in 48 hours.

The airport will be large enough for 114 planes to dock at the same time, the minister said, adding that it would employ 225,000 people when fully operational. Arslan said around $10,2 billion was invested in the project and that it would generate around $22,2 billion in 25 years before value added tax.

İstanbul’s Atatürk Airport is among Europe’s five busiest airports, recovering in 2017 from a downturn in passenger traffic the previous year. It will be closed after the new airport opens. İstanbul is a major hub for transit flights, attracting lucrative transfer traffic this year from major airports in the Gulf as Turkey recovers from security worries, according to travel data analysis company Forward Keys.

According to pro-government media, when the first phase of the airport is completed, it will have a capacity for 90 million passengers. With a completion of four stages, the airport is expected to serve 150 million passengers and to provide opportunities for flights to more than 350 destinations for nearly 100 airline companies. As of 2025, a total of 120 million passengers, including 35,5 million domestic flights and 84,9 million international flights, were expected to be operated in and out the airport.

İstanbul 3rd airport, which is expected to be the largest airport in the world when fully completed in 2023, will serve as Turkey’s primary airport and a hub for connecting flights between Europe and Asia.

At least 2,006 workers lost their lives at their workplaces across Turkey in 2017, according to a report released by the Laborer Health and Occupational Safety Assembly (İSİG) on early January. According to İSİG data 20,500 workers lost their lives at their workplaces in Turkey in last 15 years during the rule of Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) under the leadership of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the İSİG report, the distribution by 2,006 workers’ causes of death, gender and age groups  are as follows: The workers, who lost their lives, have included 116 women and 1,890 men; 60 children 18 of whom were under 15 years old; 88 refugee or asylum seeker who are predominantly Syrians.

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