The JFBA's Recommendations for Supporting Disaster Victims
The JFBA has proposed a wide variety of opinions and statements concerning ways to provide support to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake since immediately after it struck Japan on March 11, 2011. To date, the JFBA has released in total 27 statements, opinion papers and comments, etc. on this subject (as of October 18, 2011).
The JFBA released its "Emergency (Presidential) Comment on the Tohoku - Pacific Ocean Earthquake" the day after the Earthquake. In the Comment, the President expressed an intention to cooperate with numerous related organizations, such as local bar associations, local legislatures, and the Japan Legal Support Center. The JFBA also stated its intention to provide free legal aid services for disaster victims and to request early enactment of laws in support of the victims and the suitable implementation of such laws by the administration.
From March 23, the JFBA started providing toll-free call consultations for victims of the disaster with the cooperation of three bar associations in Tokyo and the Japan Legal Support Center. From March 29, the JFBA began its telephone consultation service for non-Japanese disaster victims in conjunction with the Kanto Bar Associations and the three Tokyo bar associations. From the results of these consultations, the JFBA was able to ascertain and analyze the matters which required immediate aid and support and, thus, submitted its "First Urgent Proposal" to the Prime Minister on April 19.
In this regard, the JFBA also submitted an opinion paper to the Prime Minister regarding "The Bill on the Basic Policy and Organization for the Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake," which was submitted to the House of Representatives on May 20.
The JFBA submitted the following three written opinions, on May 26, to the ministers responsible for the matters concerned:
(1) "Opinion Paper about Application of The Disaster Relief Law" which appealed for the provision of emergency funds to small and medium sized business enterprises and for the immediate abolition of the requirement of "complete collapse" condition of houses for those seeking to move into emergency makeshift housing, (2) "Opinion Paper for Early Revision of the Special Act on Land and Building Leases of Stricken Cities" which required review and immediate adoption of this act for efficient relief of victims. The JFBA required revision of this act in 2010, but the revision had not yet been realized, and (3)"Opinion Paper about Extension of Periods for Due Consideration for Acceptance or Renunciation of Inheritance" which urged the immediate enacting of special legislation to extend the duration for an heir to express his or her unconditional or qualified acceptance or renunciation of inheritance, which must be given within three months form the date the heir has knowledge that there has been a commencement of inheritance for him/ her, to one year.
On the following day, May 27, the JFBA also issued “Resolution on Relief for Victims of the Great Japan Earthquake, the Nuclear Plant Incident and the Restoration and Recovery of Affected Areas” at its 62nd General Meeting.
The JFBA has been taking prompt actions in support of disaster victims since immediately after the earthquake disaster. Furthermore, the JFBA has released the following important statements:
<JFBA Public Statement Issued on June 15, 2011>
Among the affected areas in Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures there have been numerous examples in which the local governments stopped to provide Public Assistance Benefits after distribution of relief donations that the local governments considered as income, which is contrary to the relevant notice issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on May 2, 2011, which condemned such practice.
For the victims’ relief, the JFBA urged that such practices be corrected in the affected areas and recommended that the government take charge over all the Public Assistance Benefits costs in order to reduce the financial burden of the affected areas.
<JFBA Public Statement Issued on June 23, 2011>
Although public housing all over Japan was offered after the Great East Japan Earthquake and many disaster victims were forced to take refuge, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, per its notice of June 3, 2011, decided that public housing could not be supplied to those who had resided outside of Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the nuclear power plant incident and who had taken refuge on a voluntary basis.
However, placing such limitations and standards clearly goes against the principle of protection and support for disaster victims. Therefore, the JFBA urges the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to withdraw these restrictions immediately.
<JFBA Opinion Paper Issued on June 24, 2011>
Food and daily necessities are provided to refugees when they are at the emergency makeshift housing, but this support is suspended when they move to the temporary housing, which is one of the reasons that numerous victims refuse to leave the emergency makeshift housing. The JFBA requested the government to look after food expenses to reduce the financial burden of refugees even after moving to the temporary housing.
<JFBA Opinion Paper Issued on July 15, 2011>
The JFBA requests in this Opinion Paper the revision of the act on the provision of condolence grants for victims of the disaster. For example, the allowance of condolence money should be paid uniformly, and not vary based on the deceased’s contribution to the family income, and the areas eligible to receive disaster compensation should be broadened. The JFBA also recommends that the relief donations should be provided to each individual and not only to head of the household.
<JFBA Opinion Paper Issued on July 29, 2011>
The JFBA requested that Natural Disaster Victims Relief Law be revised to be more appropriate for the relief of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In this Opinion Paper, the JFBA advocated that the State should be in charge of expenses necessary to restore not only totally destroyed houses, which is the limit of the current law, but partially destroyed houses as well. The JFBA considers that the State must also take care of recovery of properties necessary for industry, fishing etc., the current law provides support only to housing. The JFBA also recommends that support provided in this law be given to refugees of the nuclear plant incident. The JFBA recommends that necessary measures be taken in order to prohibit seizure of relief donations.
<JFBA Opinion Paper Issued on July 29, 2011>
The JFBA, considering that improvement of living conditions in temporary housing is essential, makes concrete proposals. For example, the JFBA recommends that the supply of meals, basic necessities, and medical services be continued until those who are forced to live in temporary housing become able to live within their own means. Moreover, the JFBA argued that the water, gas, and electricity should be free of charge. It is also important that a medical institution, a nursing-care-service institution, a food delivery service, and a convenience store, etc. are established in each temporary housing area. The JFBA emphasizes the importance of consolidating the human network in order to prevent disaster victims from becoming isolated.
<JFBA Opinion Paper Issued on August 18, 2011>
The JFBA has also submitted an Opinion Paper for restoration of transportation infrastructure. Concerning the railroad which suffered extensive damage during the Great East Japan Earthquake, the JFBA requests that the government define preferential measures and, in principle, bear the entire burden of the restoration cost. In addition, the JFBA demands that the local administrations and railroad operators fully reflect the will of local residents when they plan route change and the partial abolition of lines or stations for restoration.