Refugee defends Merkel's reaction in tearful encounter

German leader criticised online after telling 14-year-old that politics was hard and some refugees would be sent home.

    Merkel has been criticised on social media over the incident [Al Jazeera]
    Merkel has been criticised on social media over the incident [Al Jazeera]

    A 14-year-old Palestinian refugee, who burst into tears during a conversation on immigration with Angela Merkel, has defended the German chancellor's handling of the incident.

    A video that went viral on Twitter and YouTube on Thursday showed Merkel comforting Reem Sahwil after telling her that Germany could not take in more refugees and some would have to be sent back to their home countries.

    On Friday, Sahwil told ARD television: "[Merkel] listened to me, and she also told me what she thinks about it, and I think that is OK."

    Sahwil, who fled from Lebanon with her family four years ago, was participating in a televised question and answer session with the chancellor in the town of Rostock.

    She told Merkel that she and her family were due to be deported from Germany and described her dream of remaining in the country.

    "I also have dreams like anyone else. I want to study; it is an objective I want to accomplish," Sahwil told Merkel, adding it was "not pleasing to witness how others can enjoy life" but she could not.

    Merkel told the teenager: "Politics is hard," adding that although Sahwil seemed like a likable person, Germany could not cope with the influx wanting to come to the country.

    Then, when Sahwil began to cry in response, Merkel left the stage to comfort her, describing the situation as "stressful".

    Government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said that Merkel was "moved, just like anyone would be if they met someone who had to leave their home".

    RELATED: Asylum seekers face increasing violence in Germany

    The incident provoked a strong backlash against Merkel on social media, with a number of people condemning her for reaction.

    Some showed her comforting refugees in Iraq, while other poked fun at Merkel's role in the recent Greece bailout crisis.

    The number of people seeking refuge in Germany has increased steadily since 2008, hitting 202,834 in 2014, and 127,023 in 2013, according to the country's interior ministry.

    Many of the arrivals came from Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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