UN rights expert urges Japan to slow return of citizens to Fukushima
UN rights expert urges Japan to slow return of citizens to Fukushima

A UN human rights expert on Thursday urged the Japanese government to delay the relocation of evacuees from the Fukushima Disaster back to their homes over concerns about ongoing toxic waste. “Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe,” said the expert.

The Fukushima disaster occurred in March 2011, when the nuclear plant in the northern Japanese city experienced a meltdown following a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Everybody within a 19-mile radius—470,000 people—were forcibly evacuated. Around 123,000 remain evacuated, but the Japanese government is encouraging these people to return home before 2021.

The UN human rights expert expressed concern over these peoples’ return—especially the children. “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfill the right of the child to life,” it says.

The UN has had qualms with Japan returning citizens to Fukushima in the past. Earlier this year experts claimed that workers sent to clean up the site were “possibly exploited” by their government. “[The workers] are often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it,” said the experts.

Japan has experienced protests regarding the disaster for eight years with advocates from all sides voicing their concerns and filing suits.

Meanwhile, the prognosis for Japan’s endangered evacuees remains dire. “In the expert’s view, the recommendation [to delay their return] is not being implemented,” says the report.