In a special report released by Reuters on Dec. 30, corrupt Japanese officials are “recruiting” the country’s homeless and indigent for a special project – to clean up the radioactive fallout from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Recruiter Seiji Sasa, from Sendai, Japan, spends his days prowling the streets and shelters looking for willing and able men. He offers them minimum wage to work in what has to be the country’s most undesirable and hazardous occupation.
Surprisingly, many knowingly agree, desperate for work. In return, the contractors hired by the Japanese government pay Sasa $100 per head.
"This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says.
Reuters describes his daily routine: Sasa “strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.”
The $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort is now entering its third year. Conditions at the power plant remain much as they were during the days and months after the massive 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami swept rising water into the plant, setting off multiple meltdowns.
A shortage of available workers is pushing the cleanup into severe delays. As a result, unscrupulous practices are being employed in an attempt to clear out the inoperable plant and render it safe.
Reuters says “Japanese gangsters” have recently been arrested for the corrupt recruiting practice, but the problem persists. Multiple layers of personnel between the actual government contractors and the homeless men make investigations difficult. Many of the workers, eager to earn a pittance for themselves or family, remain mum.
“We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another,” said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi, one of the 20 major contractors involved in the radiation removal project.
Ichikawa said the company tightened its scrutiny of its “lower-tier subcontractors” in an attempt to restrict the yakuza – Japanese gangsters. Their efforts were not enough however.
“There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough,” Ichikawa admitted.
Head over to Yahoo! News for the full Reuters investigation.