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Plight of homeless in Japan’s Fukushima cleanup

Source: Reuters - Mon, 30 Dec 2013 04:24 AM
Author: Reuters
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The night is cold here in Sendai, far to the north of Tokyo.

This station's the warmest place to sleep for people living rough.

It's also a fertile recruiting ground.

Brokers are selling homeless people like this to companies cleaning up radiation in Fukushima.

Shizuya Nishiyama's been sleeping rough for a year, and he's twice been sent to scrub down radioactive hotspots.

57-YEAR-OLD HOMELESS MAN, SHIZUYA NISHIYAMA, SAYING:

"We're an easy target for recruiters. We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and around the station and we're easy to spot. Then they say to us: 'Are you looking for work? Are you hungry?'"

Activists say homeless people are flocking here from across Japan to look for work in the tsunami-devastated north.

But the safer jobs are now in short-supply.

Yasuhiro Aoki is leader of this homeless support group.

Many workers are reaching their radiation limits, he says, so there's a shortage - and the homeless are being used to fill in the gaps.

There are no figures for the number of homeless people cleaning up Fukushima.

Government rules don't require checks on the lowest tier of companies supplying workers.

On the eleventh floor of this apartment block lives one of Sendai's labour brokers, Seiji Sasa.

67-YEAR-OLD LABOUR BROKER, SEIJI SASA, SAYING:

"I don't ask any questions, that's not my job. 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."

Back at Sendai station, radiation is the last thing on Nishiyama's mind.

He says he just wants to make it through the winter.

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