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Brazilian gov't calls for restraint on ads seeking foreign workers for Fukushima jobs

A site to build tanks to store contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, where suspicions of illegal disguised contracts for foreign workers have surfaced, is pictured in this photo provided to the Mainichi Shimbun, taken around May 2014.

The Brazilian Embassy in Japan and Consulate-General in Tokyo have asked media outlets serving foreigners of Japanese ancestry to refrain from easily advertising jobs with a risk of exposure to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The finding follows news that seven people including Brazilians of Japanese descent were involved in decommissioning work at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Brazil wants its citizens to know the risks of working in such areas

Sources told the Mainichi Shimbun that between March 2014 and May that year, several people, mostly Brazilians of Japanese ancestry, were involved in constructing tanks to hold contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant without receiving sufficient advance instruction on protecting themselves against radiation. Suspicions have arisen that they were hired though illegal contracts that obscured who was responsible for their safety.

The Brazilian Embassy took exception to a job ad published in a free Portuguese-language paper for Brazilians living in Japan in the spring of 2012, the year after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. The job was to process debris within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima plant. It paid 30,000 yen a day.

Work for foreigners of Japanese ancestry has been declining since the economic downturn following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and about 100 people applied within three days of the ad being carried.

At the same time, protests about the ad rose among some Brazilians of Japanese descent, and so the Brazilian Embassy in Japan asked the publisher of the free newspaper to refrain from carrying such ads. The temp staffing agency in Osaka that ordered the ad said it refrained from employing people before the issue caused a stir, and has not sought to employ foreign workers since.

In the spring of 2015, the Brazilian Consulate-General in Tokyo took note of occasional ads in other free newspapers and put up a notice on its website asking advertisers to refrain from seeking people to work in areas around the Fukushima No. 1 plant where workers' health is put at risk.

Consul General Marco Farani told the Mainichi, "Due to the problem of radiation, I think it would be better for them not to work there, but we can't stop people who want to. Rather than looking at the good wages, it's important to properly learn about the health risks of radiation before working there. I would like the media to think about that point before publishing job ads." He said he didn't know that Brazilians of Japanese ancestry had been involved in nuclear plant decommissioning work.

Musashi University professor Angelo Ishi, a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian who is familiar with labor issues involving Brazilians of Japanese ancestry, is among those who protested against the ads.

"I took a serious view of the fact that they carried them without thinking deeply about the effects of radiation on people's health," he explained.

Regarding the suspicions of disguised contracts, he said, "It's not enough to say it was all right in the end because there was no radiation exposure or any accidents. It is necessary to make people understand the risks, providing information in advance that can also be understood by foreigners."

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