Twenty-six foreigners were taken into protective custody in 2015 after becoming victims of human trafficking, including women forced to work at hostess bars through fraudulent or violent means, the Justice Ministry said.

By nationality, 17 were Filipinos, eight were Thais and one was Sri Lankan. Twenty-three were women.

The ministry granted special permission to stay in Japan for 11 who had overstayed their visas. For the others, the ministry helped to arrange their return to their home countries based on government guidelines.

An increasing number of victims were Japanese-Filipino children born to Japanese men and Filipino women, or their mothers, the ministry said.

In previous cases of human trafficking, many Filipinos had been brought to Japan as singers or dancers but ended up working as hostesses at clubs and restaurants.

However, the number of Japanese-Filipino children and their mothers who became victims of human trafficking has increased since legal revisions that took effect in 2009 made it possible for the children to obtain Japanese nationality if their fathers confirmed the biological ties.

In February 2015, the operator of Philippine-themed nightclubs in Gifu Prefecture was found to have coerced the mothers of Japanese-Filipino children to work illegally in Japan.

According to Lighthouse (Center for Human Trafficking Victims), a nongovernmental organization, the number of inquiries it has handled about Japanese-Filipino children started to rise about five years ago.

Many of these children or their mothers have been forced to work as hostesses, according to the NGO. Club operators have deducted “living expenses” from the women’s wages, leaving little money for their actual pay, and some of the women ended up working as prostitutes.

“In Japan, the scope of acts that are recognized as human trafficking is limited,” said Lighthouse representative Shihoko Fujiwara. “Besides, many of these people cannot ask for help publicly.”

In its “concluding observations” on Japan released in March 2016, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women raised concerns about victims of labor or sexual exploitation in the country.