21 Août 2018
UN experts concerned about risks for workers on Fukushima cleanup
August 17, 2018 (Mainichi Japan)
GENEVA (Kyodo) -- Three United Nations human rights experts criticized the Japanese government Thursday for allegedly exploiting and putting at risk the lives of "tens of thousands" of people engaged in cleaning up operations at and around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
In a joint statement, the experts expressed their deep concerns "about possible exploitation by deception regarding the risks of exposure to radiation, possible coercion into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures."
"Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum seekers and people who are homeless," the experts said, adding they were "equally concerned about the impact that exposure to radiation may have on their physical and mental health."
The press release called on the Japanese government to urgently "protect tens of thousands of workers who are reportedly being exploited and exposed to toxic nuclear radiation in efforts to clean up the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station."
The statement was issued by Baskut Tuncak, special rapporteur on the disposal of hazardous substances and waste, Urmila Bhoola, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and Dainius Puras, special rapporteur on physical and mental health.
In Tokyo, an official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry called the statement "regrettable," saying it was based on one-sided information and stressed that the Japanese government has been sincerely dealing with the matter.
"We properly handled problematic cases in the past and do not regard it as a situation which requires any urgent response," the official said.
The Foreign Ministry also expressed disappointment, saying the statement unnecessarily sparks worries and confusion.
"It's regrettable as the statement based on one-sided allegations that could exacerbate the suffering of people in the disaster-hit areas," the ministry said.
There have been cases of payments not being distributed to subcontracted laborers and of workers not being allowed to take necessary health checkups.
Some foreign trainees under the government's Technical Intern Training Program have also engaged in cleanup operations without the nature of the work being properly explained.
Tuncak is expected to present a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council next month aimed at strengthening the protection of workers exposed to toxic substances.
U.N.: Japan must act to protect Fukushima clean-up workers
August 17, 2018 at 11:55 JST
Japan must act urgently to protect tens of thousands of workers laboring to clean up the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from reported exploitation and exposure to radiation, U.N. human rights experts said on Thursday.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings (TEPCO), which owns the nuclear power plant that was struck by a tsunami in 2011 that set off meltdowns, has been widely criticized for its treatment of workers and its handling of the cleanup, which is expected to take decades.
A Reuters investigation in 2013 found widespread labor abuses, including workers who said their pay was skimmed and spoke of scant scrutiny of working conditions. TEPCO said at the time it was taking steps to limit worker abuses.
Three U.N. experts, who report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said in a statement released in Geneva that exposure to radiation remained a major hazard for workers trying to clean up the plant, and workers were in danger of exploitation.
"Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum seekers and people who are homeless," said the three: Baskut Tuncak, an expert on hazardous substances; Dainius Puras, an expert on health; and Urmila Bhoola, an expert on contemporary slavery.
"We are deeply concerned about possible exploitation regarding the risks of exposure to radiation, possible coercion into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures," they said.
A spokesman for TEPCO and a foreign ministry official said they were unable to immediately comment on the statement.
The U.N. rights experts have been engaged in a dialogue with the Japanese government since last year, they said, with the government accepting to "follow up" on some recommendations.