I recently travelled from Paris to London on the Eurostar. After passing through the juxtaposed passport controls, passengers go through what appears to be regular airport-style security including a bag X-ray.

I was surprised to see this was staffed entirely by French customs officers, rather than private contractors (like at St Pancras), or UK customs officers (which would make sense entering the UK).

Why would the French border police care about customs checks for passengers leaving France?

Note: I’m specifically asking about customs here, not the juxtaposed passport controls

  • 1
    Are you sure it was customs and not security?
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 15:36
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    @Willeke they’re indeed customs agents. The main reason for the checks is security (like in airports), but I don’t quite know why it ended up being done by customs rather than a private contractor like in airports. Of course it gives them an opportunity to find stuff like drugs, large amounts of cash, etc, but that’s probably very accessory. Probably the result of some turf war a few decades ago.
    – jcaron
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 16:02
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    The US CBP occasionally mans exit booths on the US-Mexico border, eg driving from San Diego into Tijuana (by occasionally I mean once or twice a year for a few hours). We've found that this is almost always linked to a search for a specific person - missing child Amber Alert, drug/currency trafficker etc. I wonder if it's a similar situation to yours
    – Midavalo
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 16:03
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    @Midavalo No, they are doing this 24/7 every day of the year.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 16:53
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/119461/…
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 6:01

1 Answer 1


The French customs has a bunch of “brigades de surveillance intérieure” mostly in ports and train stations. I am not aware of any other location where they would perform a systematic airport-style security inspection but they are monitoring exits at other border points, including the nearby gare de l'Est. They wouldn't care about import rules for the UK (or be able to enforce that effectively) but about everything else (human trafficking, illegal drugs, weapons, etc.) They also have (or had?) explosive detection dogs that are occasionally called to help on completely unrelated suspicious packages on the Paris rail network.

That said, systematic checks are very costly and inefficient, whether on entry or on exit and the French customs doesn't rely on them so much so that's certainly an oddity that they would do it in this case. This report from 10 years ago suggests that back then they would catch someone with illegal drugs every week or so. Officers apparently complained that increased police and uniformed presence around the station meant that criminals were aware of the risks and that they had less and less to do.

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