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Foreign technical trainee reveals he was tasked with Fukushima cleanup work

A Vietnamese technical trainee tells of his experience working on decontamination projects in Fukushima Prefecture, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on March 14, 2018. (Mainichi)

A 24-year-old Vietnamese technical trainee was assigned radioactive decontamination work in Fukushima after coming to Japan, he testified at a press conference in Tokyo on March 14.

This marks the first public case of a foreign technical trainee working on cleanup relating to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, according to the trainee's supporters. The foreign trainee system aims to bring foreign workers from developing countries to Japan to learn technical skills, and a representative from the Ministry of Justice's Immigration Bureau and others voiced concerns on March 14 that assigning a technical trainee to the cleanup zone is at odds with the purpose of the program and is not approved.

The Vietnamese national came to Japan in September 2015 and worked on decontamination in the Fukushima Prefectural city of Koriyama from October 2015 to March 2016. Under the contract made through the program with a construction firm in Iwate Prefecture, he was set to learn about construction equipment, dismantling of structures and civil engineering. However, "There was no explanation about the decontamination before I arrived in Japan. There was also no education concerning exposure to radiation (as required by the government)," he said.

He also worked from September to December 2016 in what was a disaster evacuation zone in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, at a building demolition site directly managed by the Japanese government, but only received one-third of the special per diem of 6,600 yen for working in the area that he was owed in addition to his daily wage.

"If I would have known that I would be doing dangerous work, I wouldn't have come. I'm worried about the effects on my health," the man said. "I want to work in Japan doing jobs that are covered by my contract."

When contacted by the Mainichi Shimbun, a representative from the construction firm to which he was dispatched stated, "We had him doing the same work as our Japanese employees, and we told him of the possibility of doing decontamination work during his interview in Vietnam. Before entering the site, he was educated along with other laborers. There was no interpreter present, but we told him to ask if there was anything he didn't understand."

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