ASYLUM seekers are being urged to become volunteers for the citizens advice team, in a bid to help their fellow would-be refugees.

Blackburn Citizens Advice Bureau in St Johns Centre want more asylum seekers to come forward and work with the 26-strong team.

Managers hope that they can then offer more advice to people going through the same issues and problems as themselves.

There are presently 13 trainee volunteers at the centre in Victoria Street undergoing a five-day training course and supervised tuition interviews. The training process takes between three and six months.

But there has only ever been one asylum seeker who has enrolled to help in the last nine months, yet there are currently an estimated 660 asylum seekers in Blackburn with Darwen from all over the world.

Manager at the bureau David Dickinson, said the initiative is a way of making their service more empathetic.

He added: "When they arrive in this country they are often very distressed -- battling their way through mounds of legal documentation, benefits, voucher schemes and accommodation forms. Many face hostility.

"If we can have more asylum seekers as volunteers this will help a great deal. We have a lot of people come to the advice bureau as they have nowhere else to go."

Volunteers are not paid, but are refunded some expenses.

A spokesperson for CABthe Citizens Advice Bureau nationally said the drive to take on more volunteers was a way of showing that asylum seekers are welcome.

"It is a way for the bureau to provide an improved service and improve community cohesiveness.

"When arriving in Britain, refugees and asylum seekers face the daunting task of rebuilding the lives they left behind by learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture and joining in communities."

The Citizens Advice service is an independent organisation which helps people resolve legal, money and other problems by providing information and advice. For more information call 01254 671211.