What will happen to the evacuees after March 2017?
First I would like to thank Kurumi Sugita, for her essential work in translating and writing this article (and many others) about the situation that the evacuees are now facing, suffering on location, forced out of their temporary housing to make them return in their evacuated homes to live with radiation, all sacrificed for the sake of the Japanese government propaganda that everything is now back to normal in Fukushima Prefecture, everything is now fine and safe in Japan, to welcome all the future visitors to come for the 2020 Tokyo olympics. It is plainly criminal.
At the end of March, 2017 (except for Tomioka village for which the date will be April 1st), the evacuation order will be lifted from many towns and villages accompanied by the end of housing aid and mental damage compensation. The people evacuated by order will become “voluntary evacuees” , those who evacuate even though they are not obliged to. What will happen to them after March ?
To have an idea of what is likely to happen, we shall have a look of the situation of the people of Kawauchi village, where the mental damage compensation ended in August 2012.
We will start with a Facebook posting of Mme Saki Okawara dated January 16th, 2017, followed by a comment of Mr Atsushi SHIDA, president of residents association of Kawauchi villagers living in temporary houses in Koriyama city.
I brought about 200 knitted items, such as caps, mufflers, vests, knee blankets, to a temporary housing complex of Kawauchi village. A friend of mine running a knitting café at the Environment Study Information Center in Shinjuku, Tokyo, sent them to me. She has a project named “Sending the Warmth” which is to send hand-knitted items to disaster victims. She wanted to send them to Fukushima too, and I received 5 boxes.
The evacuation order was lifted from Kawauchi village following the mayor’s return declaration of January 2012. Consequently, in August 2012, compensation for mental damage came to the end. The president of the residents association of the temporary housing in Koriyama city issued a call for help on the internet in December 2013, for the residents were lacking such necessities as rice and blankets to get through the winter. I read the message, brought some materials to help, and since then I visit them from time to time.
When the evacuation order is lifted, people living in the temporary housing or in private / public housing considered as “temporary housing” and thus qualified for housing aid, are regarded as “those who continue to evacuate because they want to do so, whereas they can return”. Although they were evacuated by order, they have become jishu hinansha “auto-evacuees“, those who evacuate “voluntarily”. Fukushima prefecture is going to stop the housing aid at the end of March this year. This applies to these people too.
Currently, about 150 people from Kawauchi village are living in temporary housing. Most of them are using the hospitals in Koriyama city because of their frail conditions related to their age or disease.
Since temporary housing belongs to Fukushima prefecture, in September 2016, prefectural employees came to explain about the end of the housing aid. On January 6th this year, employees of Kawauchi village handed out documents entitled “Necessary procedures to quit temporary housing and the donation of housing items”. They say that housing items (translator’s note: air conditioner, lighting, curtains, storage units, fire extinguisher) can be given to the inhabitants if so desired, but to do so they have to leave the housing. Only this page of the document was in yellow. How shrewd! Probably 90% of them would believe that they would have to leave, and might return to the village or move to private apartments. The remaining 10% can’t move, for they are elderly in need of medical care and cannot go anywhere else.
The evacuees are told to return to their homes. But there are only one or two consultations per week at the village medical center. There is no transport service. There are three persons in need of dialysis here. The situation is as follows: at the nearest general hospital at Ono Shinmachi (translator’s note: about 30 minutes by car from Kawauchi village), 27 people are on the waiting list; at the day care of Kawauchi Social Service, the available 30 places are already taken; at the elderly people’s home, 57 households are on the waiting list. How can you go back there? In this situation, if they expel the residents from temporary housing by force, what will happen to people who have nowhere to go? And if Fukushima prefecture forces its way to stop the housing aid, it will likewise affect many more people beyond Kawauchi village.
Mr. Shida, President of the residents association of temporary houses, commented to us about the residents and their situation.。
Even after the lifting of the evacuation order, many people living in temporary housing or in housing “considered as temporary”, cannot go back home and will remain evacuated for reasons such as follows: to have access to medical or long-term care, to keep the children in the same schools, or for employment related reasons.
90% of the residents are hoping to continue living in the temporary housing, because there already exists a community here. The residents support each other and check to see if everybody is all right. If you fall ill, somebody will call an ambulance to go to a hospital and get in touch with the family. You feel secure here. However, the end of March (translator’s note: with the end of housing aid) might be the moment of separation. People will try to rebuild their lives. There will be those who return to the village, others will go join their children elsewhere, the younger generations will remain evacuated because of the low-dose radiation related health hazards.
The residents association of the South Temporary Housing Units required an extension of the temporary housing in the 2015 fiscal year, reflecting the needs of the majority of the residents. However, we did not require an extension this year. The reason is that many of the residents are elderly, in their 80s and 90s. Many of them are suffering from cognitive problems and aggravation of health conditions. If they continue their lives in temporary housing, with the weakening of their physical conditions, it will become more difficult to rebuild their lives elsewhere. Starting from April this year, it is very probable that administrative services will be minimalized. This is like living in an elderly people’s home without helpers. As an association, we have reached the conclusion that living in such conditions represents too much risk, and we decided not to require the extension.
Nevertheless, the elderly persons living here had to change places (translator’s note: shelters, etc.) several times and have gone through lots of struggles before finally settling down here. Six years’ life in temporary housing! However, when you live somewhere for 6 years, it is more than temporary life. How many more years can they live? Isn’t it normal that they hope to spend the rest of their lives here? Many people would like to let them have this choice.
Nevertheless, as an association, at the occasion of the termination of housing aid in March 2017, we are appealing for the following:
- let each person decide if they leave the temporary housing or remain;
- let us have a supplementary delay of 2 or 3 years;
- allocate more than 50,000 yen per household, as this amount proposed to cover the moving fee seems insufficient from a practical point of view.
We, the inhabitants of areas affected by the nuclear power station accident, have learned over past six years that the evacuation can last for a long period and that the environmental contamination will remain over several decades or even several centuries.
Currently, there are about 100,000 nuclear accident evacuees dispersed all over Japan. People have different perceptions. For some, the number of 100,000 evacuees is just a simple figure you find in newspapers. For others it represents 100,000 individual lives.
Damages suffered by inhabitants from the current nuclear accident include: the violation of environmental rights by environmental contamination; the violation of moral rights by the disparity and inequality of compensation in the areas of 20 to 30km of distance from the crippled nuclear power station; the violation of the right to have a happy family life by the separation of the family because of the low-dose radiation related health hazards.
We are especially worried about the possibility of rebuilding the lives of 46,000 people from the Futaba district at a distance of 30km, and of 11,000 households (more than 30,000 souls) of so-called “voluntary” evacuees from either inside or outside of Fukushima prefecture. Many have not been supported by financial compensation.
We have also been worried for some time about childless households, old couple’s households, single elderly person’s households, and those people who have chronic disease, or who are having financial difficulties.
It has been six years since the nuclear accident. It is really from now on that the damaged areas need support. It is my strong desire to transmit this message.
Useful links about Mr. Shida’s 2013 appeal :
President Shida’s appeal for help on Internet in December 2013 (in Japanese)
With video image (in Japanese)
Source : Kurumi Sugita’s blog « Fukushima 311 Voices »
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