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Cause of Filipino maid's attack still unclear, say police

Cause of Filipino maid's attack still unclear, say police

A Filipino domestic worker in central Taichung City was detained yesterday by police after allegedly attacking her employer and the employer's three children with a kitchen knife, in a case that drew major headline in local dailies and cast negative attention on foreign domestic workers in Taiwan.
According to the prosecutors, the maid claimed she attacked the employer's kids out of revenge after thinking he might kill her four children.
Her employer, on the other hand, contended the attack came after the maid found out her contract would not be renewed.
Sunday's incident occurred when the maid suddenly slashed her employer's two daughters and one son with a knife as the three children were eating dinner. The eldest, the family's 16-year-old daughter, was seriously injured after being wounded in five places, one on the nape of her neck.
Children injured
The 12-year-old daughter suffered three cuts on her left hand and the 10-year-old son suffered a cut on his back. The employer, Wang Shih-hsin, was wounded in the face as he tried to subdue the maid to protect his kids while his wife was on the phone to police.
Local authorities and Wang suspected that the maid lost control after learning her contract would not be renewed.
Wang said the contract with the maid, named Visitacion, would expire next April and because he had a policy of not extending hiring contracts, he was preparing to hiring a new maid.
Wang said Visitacion was hired take care of his unhealthy two-year-old son who was born prematurely and stressted that he and his family were friendly toward her and allowed her to eat with them.
Unlike other disputes between foreign laborers and their employers, Wang insisted that financial issues could not have triggered the maid's attack because he paid her extra allowances beyond her fixed salary.
Council of Labor Affairs' documents suggest, however, that other forces may have been at work. According to the documents, Visitaction asked her employer and broker in August to cancel her contract so that she could return home. The broker asked her to stay in Taiwan until the end of November so that a new maid could be found, said Ku Yu-ling, the secretary-general of the Taiwan International Workers' Association.
Possible reasons for outburst
Ku suspected that exhaustion may have led to Visitaction's behavior, noting that many foreign caregivers are often exhausted and tend to suffer from mental problems as domestic laws do not protect their rights to take a vacation.
She said that Visitaction's case shows the plight of foreign domestic workers in Taiwan and further indicated that it is much more difficult for foreign workers than employers to cancel their hiring contracts.
She insisted that foreign domestic workers should be allowed to take a rest at least once per week. Failure to do so would not only be harmful to them but also to their employers.
Ku stressed that there are over 150,000 foreign domestic workers in Taiwan and the government should enact laws to protect their human rights urgently.
Following the incident, some negative reports on domestic workers appeared in the media, including a show on one local TV station that invited entertainers to complain about the bad behavior of the foreign workers they had hired.
Ku acknowledged that some foreign laborers were guilty of improper behavior and might lie or steal employers' money, but she said society also had to reflect on whether or not Taiwan provided a friendly environment and good working conditions for them.
Ku stressed that the increase in foreign workers shows that Taiwan indeed needs them to do unattractive jobs because of the lack of a social welfare system and urged the government to improve its policies concerning foreign workers.
As of last month, there were about 331,000 foreign workers in Taiwan.
She said that bad policies often cause growing tension between foreign workers and their employers, citing as one example the law that punishes employers if the foreign workers they hire run away.
The consequence of the law, Ku said, was that some employers refuse to let their foreign maids go out or visit their friends to prevent them from fleeing, which only worsens the relationship between worker and employer.