DUTCH police stormed an overnight ferry bound for Harwich after reports three people were intending to enter the UK illegally.

AN overnight ferry bound for Harwich was delayed after three Moroccan men were caught trying to enter the country illegally.

A Stena Line ferry was due to leave the Hook of Holland at 10pm on Sunday, but remained in port for more than two hours.

Dutch police received intelligence people had boarded the ship illegally.

Acting alongside coastguard and seaport police, officers boarded the ferry and three men from Morocco where detained after a search.

Captain Marlous de Ridder, of Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, said: “We received information about possible climbers who entered the ship illegally.

“With the assistance of a dog, we started looking for these climbers in and around the ferry.

“The coastguard and seaport police also tried to locate the climbers from the waterside.

“Eventually the dog found three men of Moroccan nationality on the lorries on board.

“These men are currently in detention as we try to figure out their itinerary.”

It remains unclear how the three men managed to board the ship unnoticed.

Figures show since the start of the year, 450 people have been intercepted aboard ferries bound for Harwich, with 80 managing to reach the port.

Many cases are linked to people smuggling, though investigations regarding the three Moroccan men are ongoing.

Captain de Ridder added: “In most cases, climbers are found hiding in a lorry before going through passport control, where our migration dogs usually find them.

“The number of climbers in the port of Rotterdam increased again in the past six months.

“More than half are Albanian citizens trying to travel to the UK illegally.

“Most of these are merely attempts, as nearly 90 per cent of the climbers found are arrested on the Dutch side.

“We have found large groups this year which are most likely linked to people smuggling.”

Stena Line was contacted for comment by the Gazette but did not respond before we went to press.