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Reem Sahwil


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticized for appearing to be unsympathetic when a 14-year-old Palestinian refugee described what her life was like under threat of deportation.

Angela Merkel had told Reem Sahwil that not all migrants can stay in Germany.

However, Reem Sahwil has defended the way Angela Merkel dealt with her after she burst into tears while talking about her future.

Angela Merkel “listened to me and she also told me what she thinks about it, and I think that’s OK,” Reem Sahwil told ARD TV.

The conversation took place during a government-organized forum for young people, which was filmed and then broadcast.

In the video, Reem Sahwil tells Angela Merkel that her family had been waiting four years to gain permanent residency in Germany.Angela Merkel crying Palestinian refugee

They were told they would have to return to a camp in Lebanon imminently – only to receive a last-minute temporary German residency permit, she said.

“I would like to go to university,” said Reem Sahwil, in fluent German.

“It’s really very hard to watch how other people can enjoy life and you yourself can’t. I don’t know what my future will bring.”

Angela Merkel replied that “politics can be tough”, adding: “You are an extremely nice person but you also know that there are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.”

Germany could not manage if all of them wanted to move there, she said.

When Reem Sahwil began to cry, Angela Merkel went over to her and began stroking her on the back and telling her she had done well to highlight the difficulties facing refugees in Germany.

Within hours of the video being broadcast, the term #Merkelstreichelt (Merkel strokes) trended on Twitter.

Some social media users complained that Angela Merkel had “petted” the girl and failed to show enough sensitivity, although others defended the leader’s reaction.

Germany says it expects 400,000 asylum applications by the end of 2015 – more than double the amount it received in 2014.

The right-wing Pegida group has marched against what it calls the Islamization of Germany, and the country’s newest political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has called for tighter immigration control.