The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Fukushima Nightmare Continues as Homeless People are Recruited for Cleanup, Scammed Out of Wages
Police and media in Japan have discovered that homeless people near Fukushima have been recruited to help clean up the three-year-old nuclear devastation for minimum wages, but haven't seen most of their money.
Most have wound up in debt.
According to Reuters, recruiters like Seiji Sasa have been trolling Sendai Station another locations for homeless people to aid in the behind-schedule, taxpayer-funded radioactive cleanup throughout northern Japan. Police arrested members of Japanese crime syndicates several times this year for infiltrating Obayashi Corp.'s subcontractors and illegally sending workers to disaster sites. Those workers were often brought in for less than minimum wage, but essentially scammed out of their earnings because they were given a place to stay during the hours they weren't attempting to clean up radioactive soil and debris.
"Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages," Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate, said. "Then at the end of the month, they're left with no pay at all."
The homeless workers reported to companies who then reported to Obayashi, known as the country's second-largest construction firm and one of 20 large contractors involved in governmental cleanup efforts. There are at least more than 730 subcontractors working for performing work for the Ministry of Environment, an amount that has led to scarce oversight. Loose certification and disclosure rules have made it easier to obtain radiation removal contracts. Reuters found 56 subcontractors on environment ministry contracts worth $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been examined by the construction ministry.
The crime organizations created recruiting agencies and people like Sasa stood to make $100 for every worker they brought in.
"I don't ask questions; that's not my job," Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. "I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That's it.
"I don't get involved in what happens after that."
Sasa was arrested in November, but did not face any charges. Obayashi also has not faced charges, though the recruiting agencies were set up under the large company.
The Japanese government does not have estimates on the amount of homeless people working on disaster sites, according to Reuters.
Just one-third of wages allocated by Obayashi's top contractor made it to the workers recruited by Sasa. Various middlemen took the rest, according to police. Workers were left with 50 cents less than Fukushima's $6.50 minimum wage after food and lodging deductions, but most have ended up in debt.
"We're an easy target for recruiters," said Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old who opted to return to the streets after more than half of his pay was docked for room and board. "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."
Radioactive hotspots have turned up throughout Japan, including some that threaten human life in Tokyo and may cast a pall on the upcoming Olympics. Tuna contaminated with radiation from Fukushima have been caught off the California coast.
Also, more than 70 U.S. Navy sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)—which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant—for downplaying the danger of nuclear radiation on the site, which led to various forms of cancer and radiation sickness.
Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."