With the bells of Notre Dame heralding a glorious Easter Sunday morning, a tourist uses a cash point a short stroll from the ancient Paris cathedral.

Within seconds he is surrounded by an aggressive gang of Roma sneak thieves, who make no secret of what they want from him.

Feeling hands on his back and arms, the middle age man turns around in horror to see the utterly fearless gang casually trying to help themselves to his money.

Gang

Such scenes have become so common in the French capital that police last week called for the ‘systematic eviction’ of Roma.

Groups of thieves, many of them teenagers, swarm around the main tourist landmarks day and night.

‘They respect nobody–they just want money or anything else they can steal,’ said another tourist who witnessed the incident at the cashpoint between Notre Dame and the Louvre museum, in the 1st arrondissement.

‘It might have been Easter, but the gangs were everywhere,’ she said. ‘One minute the man was making a cash withdrawal, the next he was a crime victim.

‘If the police come anywhere near the Roma, they just laugh and then run off. Areas are becoming completely lawless.’

Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world, and the British make up the city’s biggest visitor group, but its battle against the Roma is a losing one.

Charity and human rights groups were furious last week when a leaked police memo called for the ‘systematic eviction’ of Roma from the centre of the city.

It followed the country’s Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, saying that the travelling communities of mainly Romanians and Bulgarians ‘cannot integrate’ and should be deported.

A spokesman for Charity group Catholic Help described the note as a ‘scandal’, saying that it ‘stigmatised a poor community’ and amounted to ‘racial profiling’- something which is illegal in secular France.

But other Paris officials argued that Roma are behind most of the crime in the city, involving themselves in everything from aggressive begging to muggings and burglaries.

Gangs of young Roma, including women and children, can regularly be seen harassing tourists.

Many of the Roma beggars who congregate around cash points and banks have very young children with them, including babies.

Most of them live in large shanty towns on the outskirts of Paris, but more and more are setting up new camps in central parks and squares.

Jean-Pierre Colombies, spokesman for the SNOP-SCSI police union, said Roma were constantly moving around Paris.

‘It’s musical chairs’ said Mr Colombies. ‘We chase the Roma from one place to another, from one arrondissement to the next.’

Even Stephane Le Foll, spokesman for France’s Socialist Government, appeared to back the police, saying that extremely poor communities living rough in Paris made ‘everybody extremely nervous’.

Mr Le Foll said: ‘We’re obliged to regulate all that, to be clear on all that, not to consider that nothing has happened.’

Prime Minister Valls has continued a policy started by former president Nicolas Sarkozy of razing Roma camps, and trying to deport as many of their occupants as possible.

This has led to protests from a number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which points out that most Roma in France are Romanian or Bulgarian and as such are EU citizens with the right to live and work in the country.

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