Photo/IllutrationLawyer Kiyoshi Morikawa, center, who represents evacuees in Tokyo from Fukushima Prefecture, speaks at a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 3. (Miki Aoki)

Fukushima Prefecture will take legal action to evict five households living in public housing in Tokyo who voluntarily evacuated from the prefecture following the 2011 nuclear accident.

The prefectural assembly on Oct. 3 approved in a majority vote plans to file a lawsuit against the evacuees, who are residing in the housing for government employees without signing a contract or paying rent.

The suit will also demand that the households pay a total of about 6 million yen ($56,190), which is between 500,000 yen and 2 million yen per household, equivalent to two years of rent.

All factions except for the Japanese Communist Party voted in favor, while an assembly member belonging to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan left before the vote. The prefecture plans to file the lawsuit within this year.

Rent-free housing for evacuees who left their homes located outside the government-designated evacuation zones ended at the end of March 2017. The prefecture allowed them to continue living in the accommodations through the end of March 2019 if they paid rent.

However, the five households have not signed contracts to remain in the housing and have not paid rent or parking fees.

Lawyer Kiyoshi Morikawa, who represents three of the five households and is a co-representative of a lawyers group for the Fukushima nuclear disaster victims in areas around Tokyo, and other members held a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 3.

Morikawa read out a statement from a female evacuee in her 30s who said, “I have spent every day living in fear. Although being evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, I am scared as I feel like the prefecture is going to take everything from me.”

Morikawa also read out a complaint made by a group of plaintiffs in a Fukushima nuclear disaster lawsuit in Tokyo and its lawyers group that said, “What the prefecture is going to do is to take housing by force at the evacuation sites. It is extremely unacceptable.”

According to Morikawa, the three households are unable to pay the rents as their incomes dropped due to being forced to evacuate from the prefecture following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

(This article was written by Masahito Iinuma, Shinichi Sekine and Miki Aoki.)