Japan’s homeless are being recruited to clean up the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. In March 2011, an earthquake and resulting tsunami caused partial failure at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. As a result, the plant and surrounding area was contaminated with nuclear waste. Although it has been three years, a substantial amount of waste remains.
Facing numerous missed deadlines and a shortage of workers, the plant is in desperate need of help. Organized crime syndicates have taken advantage of the situation by creating black-market agencies, which recruit the homeless to work as subcontractors.
The recruiters are motivated by profit as they receive the equivalent of $100 US dollars for every worker they bring to the plant. As reported by Reuters, the recruited workers often earn less than minimum wage.
Although the practice is illegal, it is incredibly difficult to track which recruiters are providing legitimate workers. There are currently more than 700 companies providing contractors and subcontractors to clear out the waste. Numerous companies lack proper certification for the work being performed.
Yukio Suganuma is president of one of the companies contracted to clean up the waste. He explains that many of the companies simply cannot screen “every single person,” as they would lose “a tenth of the people” they need to perform the work.
Recent arrests within the Inagawa-kai, Sumiyoshi-kai, and Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicates suggest strong ties between the construction companies and organized crime. Several illegal recruiting agencies were found to be working under Obayashi, one of Japan’s largest construction companies.
Despite the arrests, Obayashi maintains their government contract to clean up the nuclear waste.
Recruiter Seiji Sasa said he regularly recruits the homeless to work at Fukushima. As reported by New York Daily News, he finds most of his recruits at the train stations. Sasa said he simply “send[s] them and get[s] money in exchange.” He said he does not “get involved in what happens after that.”
Most of the workers make less than $6.50 per hour. However, some leave without ever being paid.
Recruiting the homeless to clean up Fukushima’s radioactive waste is illegal. Unfortunately, it continues to happen.
[Image via Flickr]