Since it was announced earlier this year that asylum seekers would be housed on a barge moored off Portland, the Bibby Stockholm barge has made headlines across the country and around the world.

Numerous opinions on the barge – established, the government says, to save money on hotel accommodation - have been aired.

But very little has been heard from the asylum seekers themselves who have arrived in Dorset – men with hopes and dreams of seeking a better, peaceful life.

Some of them have resorted to desperate measures, paying gangs thousands of euros to get them to the UK in dangerous small boats.

Asylum seekers who arrive in the UK are not allowed to legally work while their asylum claims are being assessed.

This leaves many of them with hours of free time to kill, having worked all of their lives and now being desperate to make a living of their own.

Azad*, an asylum seeker currently living on the Bibby Stockholm barge, is devoting his time to volunteering for homeless charities in Weymouth.

He moved to the UK from Pakistan in January and initially lived in London before being moved to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Azad has been helping homeless charities in Weymouth and Portland, helping to cook and distribute food for those who are living on the streets during the coldest months of the year.

“When I first arrived in the UK I was living in London and I volunteered for the British Red Cross,” said Azad, “In my country, I would always do the same, working for the welfare societies, giving donations.

“Me and a couple of my friends have been helping out in Weymouth and Portland, trying to help the homeless people.

“We have all got to have humanity, if we all have humanity and try to look after each other that is the most important thing.”

Several of the asylum seekers living on the barge have now begun volunteering with local charities – and in particular, charities working with homeless people.

Some of the men on board the barge have experience in charity work, having worked for organisations in their home countries.

Others have volunteered at charities in London or other parts of the country where they were housed before moving to the Bibby Stockholm.

The asylum seekers receive around £9 a week as an allowance to spend on food or leisure in Weymouth or Portland.

Dorset Echo: The asylum seekers have helped cook and distribute hot food for homeless people in WeymouthThe asylum seekers have helped cook and distribute hot food for homeless people in Weymouth (Image: Supplied)

Azad said he spends the majority of his weekly allowance on food to give to homeless people in Weymouth.

He said: “Me and my friend, we get given £9 a week.

“Out of that we always try and buy some food for the homeless people in Weymouth.

“I spend £5 on food for the homeless people and £4 on myself.”

Annika is a local volunteer with a number of homeless charities in Weymouth and Portland.

Together with Portland Global Friendship Group, she has worked alongside the asylum seekers, offering a chance for them to get involved in social activities, days out and charity work.

The group offers weekly planners with activities for the men to get involved in to try and help them integrate with the communities of Weymouth and Portland, as well as an opportunity for the asylum seekers to meet and socialise with one another outside the barge.

Annika said: “A few of the guys have been coming down to Weymouth to help out cooking food for the homeless.

Dorset Echo: Asylum seekers helped cook hot food for asylum seekersAsylum seekers helped cook hot food for asylum seekers (Image: Supplied)

“Help for Homeless give out hot food and hot drinks and clothes very Thursday and Friday.

“I asked if anyone wanted to come and lend a hand.

“There have been quite a lot of people come to help.

“The first time we had about four or five come and help to make teas and coffees.

“And then I thought what more could we do and I thought maybe we could use my kitchen to cook some food for the homeless and we ended up having loads of people around, too many cooks.

“My kitchen was probably a bit too small.

“It is the biggest request we get from the men on the barge is volunteering.

“Even on that first day when someone just moved back to the Bibby Stockholm, within ten minutes of being there he was asking to be set up with volunteering opportunities.

“They want to give back to the community, they ask how they can repay people in the community.”

Braham*, 20, also sought asylum in the UK after moving from Pakistan.

He too has been working with homeless charities in Weymouth and Portland, but has also used his experience in IT and technology to try and help Portlanders at a local community centre with tech support or any computer problems they may have.

Dorset Echo: The asylum seekers recently attended a vigil for a man who died on board the Bibby StockholmThe asylum seekers recently attended a vigil for a man who died on board the Bibby Stockholm (Image: Tom Lawrence)

Braham said: “I have distributed food for homeless people and worked with community groups who provide food for homeless people on Portland.

“I am an IT guy, so I have been to islanders helping them with any IT or computer problems.

“You will find me anywhere where there is an opportunity to do charity work.

“Last week there was a Christmas party for the asylum seekers and I helped cook food for everyone.

“I used to be the kind of guy who went to school full time and after that full-time work, my father is an electrical engineer and I used to go along with him as a helper, he taught me everything.

“I was always very active for the whole day but now I am not allowed to work, so I just want to do anything to help keep me busy.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of asylum seekers