Hundreds of workers detained after protest at new Istanbul airport

Police in Turkey have rounded up hundreds of construction workers at Istanbul's new airport after they staged a protest denouncing poor working conditions
Saturday, 15 September 2018 20:51

Hundreds of workers on the construction site of Istanbul's third airport, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "mega projects", have been arrested for protesting at the number of work-related deaths and poor conditions.

The protest broke out after a shuttle bus accident on Friday in which 17 workers were injured. Thousands of workers joined the demonstration.

Police used tear gas at the construction site on Friday to break up the protest by the workers who were demanding better conditions, including improved safety at the site. On Saturday police arrested at least 20 people. The security forces moved in to break up the protest by dozens of people following a wave of arrests on Friday. 

In tota,l some 500 people have been arrested during protests.

As some resources report that around 400 workers have been killed at the site since the beginning of the massive airport project, the AKP government denies such reports and says that 27 workers died since the construction had begun in May 2015.

The new airport is scheduled to open on Oct. 29.

The contractors have been forcing workers to work day and night under inhuman conditions to finish the project.

Workers have also complained about poor food at the site, bed bugs in their sleeping quarters and delayed salaries. Pictures they posted online showed cracks in the ceilings and walls of the container homes where they are housed.

The hashtag supporting the workers, "we are not slaves" (#köledegiliz) was trending strongly in Turkey on Saturday.

Dozens of security forces, backed by armoured vehicles, controlled access to the site on Saturday.

The workers refused to work several times as their salaries were not paid for two months. Tens of thousands of subcontracted workers working under 1500 firms are employed for the third airport project. In February 2018, more than 1500 workers had blocked the roads to protest bad working conditions and long working hours, as they are being pushed to finalize the airport construction very soon.