The Philippine government is taking steps to address the issue of thousands of unregistered Filipino children living overseas who frequently find themselves in need of assistance from the Philippine authorities.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the government assisted a total of 8,197 unregistered children from January 2017 to November 2018. Unregistered children include those born to parents seeking asylum as well as sexual-abuse victims and trafficked Filipinos, Philippine News Agency reported.

Glenda Relova, DSWD assistant secretary and spokesperson, said that the children involved are afforded all necessary assistance during their stays at embassy shelters until they are repatriated to the Philippines.

Relova said that if the parent of the child is detained, attempts are made by the DSWD to identify and assess the suitability of a next of kin who may be able to take responsibility for the child.

The DSWD said it has no exact figure on the number of children born by Filipino parents out of marriage in the Middle East. Relova said the government only becomes aware of such children when cases are reported directly at the embassy or when individuals are caught by local authorities.

“Often, with reports from concerned nationals, our social welfare attachés abroad personally visit the hiding places and once discovered they are brought to temporary shelter and provided with different services applicable to their needs,” she said.

The Philippine government said it continues to give assistance to these children and their parents. The Department of Foreign Affairs shoulders the repatriation expenses of undocumented children, while the DSWD assists in the repatriation, particularly in cases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.