In news that seems better suited for dystopian science fiction, the homeless of Japan are being recruited by the Yakuza crime syndicate to help clean up the nuclear fallout in radiation-stricken Fukushima.
This latest news on the radiation situation in Fukushima comes courtesy of a Reuters special report by Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski. The story describes Seiji Sasa, a labor recruiter whose habits include frequenting the train station in Sendai in search of vagrants to put them to work cleaning up the radiation in Fukushima, site of a catastrophic failure resulting from the March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.
The Fukushima radiation cleanup is a massive, $35-billion taxpayer-funded effort that has fallen behind schedule due to a lack of oversight and apparent corruption. The Reuters report invokes three cases from January, October and November in which Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating Obayashi Corp, the nation’s second-largest construction company, and “illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.”
In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai’s train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved.
Obayashi itself has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but evidence suggests that Japan’s three largest criminal syndicates had set up black-market recruiting agencies under the company for the sake of employing the homeless to clean up the Fukushima radiation.
Shizuya Nishiyama, one of the homeless denizens of Sendai Station, had briefly worked around the radiation, clearing rubble in Fukushima. He says he left after a dispute over wages in a working environment in which laborers must pay for room and board out of their wages. NIshiyama decided a life on the street was preferable to going into debt while cleaning up radiation in Fukushima.
“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” Nishiyama said. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”