A Palestinian immigrant girl broke down in tears after German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained to her that she could not stop her family’s possible deportation.
During a televised forum for young people titled “Good life in Germany," the German leader was confronted by a young Palestinian refugee named Reem, who explained that she had been in Germany with her family for four years after they moved from a refugee camp in Lebanon but could be deported at any time because they had only been granted temporary asylum.
“As long as I don't know how long I can stay here, I don’t know what my future will be,” Reem said, in fluent German, as reported by the BBC. “I really want to study in Germany - it is unfair to watch while other people can enjoy life and you can’t enjoy it with them.”
According to a German news site The Local, Chancellor Merkel hesitated before replying, "You are an extremely nice person. You know, in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon there are thousands and thousands [of people]. If we now say 'you can all come' ... we just can't manage that."
Shortly afterwards, the girl broke down in tears. When Merkel noticed that she was crying, she went to comfort her and stroked her hair, saying, “oh come, but you did a great job”.
Footage of the encounter went viral in Germany. Many took to Twitter with trends such as #merkelstreichelt, meaning “Merkel strokes” and #Empathie (empathy). Critics slammed Merkel’s administration, saying it lacked sympathy.
According to the latest data, Germany admits far more immigrants than any other country. In 2014, Germany received six times the number of asylum seeker applicants than Britain, and twice as many as any other country in Europe, the Guardian reported.
Germany is grappling with a record number of refugees. This year, the government says it expects 400,000 asylum applications by the end of 2015 - more than double the amount it received in 2014. According to Reuters, the figure includes economic refugees from the Balkans as well as migrants fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East.