Turkish prosecutor requests arrest of 28 workers detained at İstanbul’s third airport

A Turkish prosecutor has requested the court to arrest 28 workers who were among hundreds detained last week during a strike protesting dangerous working conditions at the construction of İstanbul’s third airport, according to a report by BirGün daily.

A total of 401 people were detained during the strike by thousands of workers against working conditions and worker deaths at the third airport project on Friday. While the protest was triggered by an on-site service bus accident that injured 17, official sources indicate at least 27 employees have been killed on the site since 2015. This number is much higher according to unofficial sources, including the airport staff.

The prosecutor transferred 28 of the workers, among them union leaders, to court with a request for their arrest, BirGün daily reported, noting that the detained workers stand accused of, among others, “the violation of work freedom,’’ “damaging public property,’’ “provoking people to hatred and enmity.’’

The İnşaat-İş workers’ union protested the decision in a tweet, saying, ”You can never deter us with detentions and arrests. Construction workers are not slaves!”

In February, the Labor Ministry said 27 workers had died on the construction site since 2015 when works began there. However, according to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily on February 12, 2018, the Turkish authorities have covered up the deaths of 400 construction workers during construction of the third airport in İstanbul.

The report stated that there have been scandals involving work safety in the construction of the third 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 at the construction site where 31,000 workers are employed.

According to the Cumhuriyet report, the employees have described the construction site as a “graveyard.” The workers said employers have put pressure on workers to hurry up with construction and that there are no work safety measures in place at the construction site. They have said the deaths have been hidden by the employers by giving money to the families of the victims, who have come from as far away as Anatolian cities. A large number of foreign nationals also work at the construction site.

According to the pro-government media, when the first phase of the airport is completed, it will have a capacity of 90 million passengers. With completion in 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 airlines. 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 third 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.

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