ATHENS – The Greek government won’t pull back fines on members of the country’s Pakistani community who suddenly showed up in the capital city’s Syntagma Square on New Year’s Eve, violating COVID-19 restrictions and not wearing masks.
Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said the fines won’t be overturned despite a plea for leniency from the President of the Cultural Community of Greece-Pakistan, Syed Mohammad Jamil.
The Pakistani leader said that the gathering was spontaneous and not organized, participants didn’t know the city had called off celebrations and that people left after being informed by police they couldn’t be there.
Photos showed a huge mass of people had come there despite public notice that events wouldn’t be allowed although police in some instances haven’t fined others for not wearing maks in public under new measures.
“We will not cancel any fines imposed by the Hellenic Police on members of the Pakistani community during New Year’s Eve on Syntagma for not wearing masks. Laws are laws and apply to all, even if the presence of these people was spontaneous,” the minister said in a social media post.
Footage on social media, mainly TikTok, showed hundreds of people without masks flouting safety protocols that include a requirement to stay a safe social distance apart which has largely been ignored, especially with holiday shopping showing crowds in downtown Athens.
The Greek Forum of Migrants said that it started informing its members with messages posted on Facebook in Greek, English and Arabic from Dec. 29 about the restrictions, said Kathimerini.
“We condemn the non-use of a mask,” Khalid Mughal, president of the Pakistan Journalist Club (Regd.) Greece, told the paper, adding there weren’t any official invitations sent out and no gathering was planned, but didn’t explain why so many showed up otherwise.
“We are always vigilant and informing our community about the coronavirus,” he said, noting, however, that not all the migrants at Syntagma were from just one country, no report given how many were fined or the amount being paid.