NINE Albanian stowaways have been stopped at a North-east port as they tried to get into the country in the back of lorries.

The foreign nationals were discovered at North Shields ferry terminal as UK Border Agency officers were searching two Romanian-registered lorries.

The Agency says the discovery is the largest ever interception of stowaways at a North-east port.

The lorries had arrived in the UK on Monday's early morning ferry from The Netherlands.

The stowaways, whose ages ranged from their 20s to 40s, were questioned and returned to The Netherlands on the late afternoon ferry the same day.

The haulier was issued with a £5,000 fine for failing to properly secure the vehicles.

John Spence, Assistant Director at the UK Border Agency, said: "Officers at Tyne Dock use the latest technology, sniffer dogs and their own experience and expertise to stay one step ahead of illegal immigrants.

"The UK Border Agency's strong presence at the frontier helps protect the whole country from people illegally entering the UK and then heading for places across Britain.

"We will not hesitate to take strong action against hauliers who fail to secure their vehicles".