In a survey conducted by the Mainchi Shimbun, 80% of the responding evacuees displaced because of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 say they have no plans of returning to their hometowns. Those interviewed came from the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were the hardest hit by the disasters.
58% of those surveyed said they are considering staying in the prefectures where they are now, while 22% said that they have already moved permanently. Only 20% said they will be going home when the time comes. With 118 evacuees responding, this is the fourth such survey conducted, with the first one just six months after the earthquake and tsunami. The number of those who will not go home has steadily grown over the past two years. When asked why they want to settle down elsewhere, some said they were afraid of radiation exposure while others cited the lack of prospects to return to if they are allowed to return to their original homes.
42% of the surveyed evacuees are living rent-free in apartments provided by the local government while 27% found the apartments on their own and have local bodies paying their rent. A mere 12% are living in apartments that they pay for themselves. Half of the respondents are understandably worried what will happen to them after the three-year period allotted for temporary housing expires. The government has already extended the original two-year legal limit on rent-free housing to three years, and might be considering extending it by another year. More than half have admitted they are either in financial distress or struggling to make a living.
The Fukushima evacuees are naturally concerned with their health and the fallout from the nuclear meltdown at the power plant. 42% of them have demanded that the plants be immediately decommissioned while 56% said they need to be shut down step by step. 20% of those surveyed from the prefecture said they feel they are being discriminated against when people find out they’re from Fukushima.