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Drones, motorbikes and a coffee machine - What French police bought with UK border cash

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Drones, motorbikes and a coffee machine - What French police bought with UK border cash
Small boat crossings of the Channel have become a major political flashpoint between France and the UK. Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP

French police were able to buy new drones, quad bikes and thermal imaging equipment - and a coffee machine - with money supplied by the British government under a deal to share responsibility for policing migrant crossings of the Channel, according to documents obtained by a European media site.

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The Sandhurst Treaty was negotiated between French president Emmanuel Macron and then British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 and involved the UK government providing funding to French police in order to step up patrols and the prevent unauthorised migrant crossings of the English Channel. 

Since then there have been several subsequent agreements and promises of increased funding from the UK. 

The 'small boat' crossings have become a major political issue in the UK and the Sandhurst Treaty is a regular flashpoint, including accusations from the French that the British have not paid what they owe, while the British accuse the French of not doing enough to stop the crossings. 

ANALYSIS What is France doing to stop 'small boat' Channel crossings?

Now documents obtained by the European news site Politico from the French interior ministry show the 'shopping list' of items French police have spent the money on. 

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The Politico documents show that the UK has paid around €46 million to France, which makes up around 10 percent of the total costs to France of policing its borders.

A 2022 French senate report put the total costs of patrolling the Channel coast at €217 million. 

The documents show that the majority of the money was spent on materials and new technology for police patrolling the 900km-long Channel coastline, including equipment for a new equestrian patrol.

Among the items bought were cars, motorbikes, quad bikes, hours from helicopter patrols and surveillance equipment such as thermal imaging cameras and drones.

However the detailed documents also revealed the spending on equipment for officers and stations including beds, coffee machines and phone chargers.

Some of the cash was also spent on equipment for border patrols along the French-Italian border - a common route for people travelling from Africa to enter France - and on paying extra reservists. 

The documents show that since 2018, €46.5 million has been paid by the UK under the Sandhurst treaty with around €20 million spent in 2023 alone. 

The highly dangerous Channel crossing has resulted in hundreds of fatalities per year, including the loss of 31 people when their boat sank in 2021, piling pressure on both British and European authorities to stop the crossings. 

The majority of people who reach the UK via small boat crossings are eventually granted asylum

French authorities are increasingly pushing for a European solution, including asking the UK to set up an asylum processing centre in northern France, to allow claims to be assessed on French soil. 

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The Le Touquet Agreement of 2004 allows for reciprocal border controls of French and UK officials in each other's countries - which is why French passport control officers work in Dover or at London St Pancras station and British passport control officers can be seen in French ports including Calais and at Gare du Nord. Later in 2004 the treaty was extended to include pre-departure checks of passengers boarding the Eurostar in Brussels.

READ ALSO What is the Le Touquet Agreement and why do some French politicians want to scrap it?

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