Revised law enables A-bomb survivors abroad to apply for official recognition from outside Japan

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

The Upper House of the Japanese Diet has passed the Revised Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law which will enable A-bomb survivors living overseas to apply for the Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate from their home countries. The new law was adopted on June 11, 2008 and will be implemented within six months.

The requirement that A-bomb survivors travel to Japan to submit the application, as stipulated in the previous version of the law, was removed. After the new law takes effect, survivors living abroad can apply for official recognition by contacting the cities or prefectures of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, depending on their place of residence at the time of the bombings. The actual certificate, too, can then be received while overseas.

The Diet also attached an addendum to the new law which states that A-bomb survivors residing abroad must be treated fairly in comparison with their counterparts in Japan, a provision that permits the government to take measures to raise the level of medical subsidies for survivors overseas, currently capped at 145,000 yen annually, and to revise the designation of A-bomb disease sufferers, who currently cannot apply for status without traveling to Japan.

However, to obtain their Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate, survivors must take part in an interview with city or prefectural officials of the locality where they submitted their application. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare will finalize the details before the new law is implemented, including the procedure for this interview by Hiroshima or Nagasaki officials at the consulate or other diplomatic office in the country where the applicant resides.

In November 2007, the Supreme Court ruled against the directive issued by the former Ministry of Welfare, which prevented A-bomb survivors living abroad from receiving aid. This ruling came in a case brought against the Japanese government and other organizations by former forced laborers from Korea, who were exposed to the bombing while at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Hiroshima. The judgment also compelled the government to provide compensation to these Korean A-bomb survivors. This case marked the first time the handling of A-bomb survivors living abroad was articulated since the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law was enacted in 1995.

Since the previous Diet session, legislators of the ruling coalition and the Democratic Party had been working to merge their two separate bills into one and the new Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law was completed on May 28. The bill was then passed by the Lower House on June 5.

(Originally published on June 12, 2008)

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