• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Palestinian girl defends Merkel against criticism

DPA/The Local · 17 Jul 2015, 15:55

Published: 16 Jul 2015 11:26 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jul 2015 15:55 GMT+02:00

"She listened to me and then gave her opinion. I'm fine with that," said Reem Sahwil on ARD's Morgenmagazin on Friday.

Sahwil told Merkel in perfect German that her family was at risk of being deported, during a question and answer session the Chancellor was conducting at a school in Rostock.

The Chancellor replied that Germany could not take in every Palestinian refugee - a reaction which was condemned as cold-hearted on social media platforms.

“It's really difficult to see that others are really able to enjoy their lives and you yourself can't enjoy it with them,” Reem told the Chancellor as she explained that her hopes of studying in Germany would be crushed if she were forced to leave.

The young Palestinian girl added that she's been studying at the Paul-Friedrich-Scheel school in Rostock for four years and learned fluent German and English – not to mention a little Swedish.

But Shawil's chances of remaining in Germany are actually secure, due to a law brought in by Merkel's government in June.

The law states that minors who have been in Germany for a period of four years have a right to stay, as Aydan Özoğuz, the government's spokesperson of refugee issues, made clear to Spiegel on Friday.

Why Merkel did not mention this change in the law during the television discussion is unclear.

Merkel was almost lost for words on Wednesday when Sahwil confronted her about the fact that she and her family were close to being deported from Germany.

“I have goals like everyone else. [Studying] is really a wish and a goal that I would like to reach,” Sahwil said.

“I understand, and yet I have to... politics is sometimes hard,” Merkel, visibly caught off-balance in a session that was supposed to focus on “living well in Germany”, blustered in response. “Of course you are an extremely nice person...”

But the Chancellor soon collected herself for the watching television cameras, launching into a defence of German refugee policy to please the crowd at home.

“You know, in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon there are thousands and thousands [of people]. If we now say 'you can all come,' and 'you can all come from Africa,' and 'you can all come,' we just can't manage that," she said.

As Reem began to cry shortly afterwards, Merkel stepped forward to stroke her hair, saying, “but you did a great job”.

“I don't think it's about doing a good job, but the fact that it's a very difficult situation, Madam Chancellor,” the presenter interjected.

“I know that it's a difficult situation,” Merkel shot back. “That's why I want to comfort her, because we don't want to bring all of you into such situations and because you are having a difficult time, because you've shown for a lot of other people what situations you can end up in...”

Merkel has come in for widespread criticism and mockery online for her handling of the unexpected encounter under the Twitter hashtag #merkelstreichelt (Merkel strokes).

"If you have the problem that you think Angela Merkel is too nice, watch this video and look out for the final phrases," left-wing commentator Sascha Lobo wrote.

"Christian, scientist, politician. But failed rhetorically and as a human on all fronts," another user judged.

"Explaining to a young girl on live camera that her fate doesn't matter to you - just shameful," wrote Jan Schnorrenberg, manager of the opposition Green party's youth wing.

Merkel's PR team appeared to make the problem worse on Thursday when they described the encounter for the "Living Well in Germany" website.

Government flacks wrote that Reem had burst into tears "out of great agitation" after Merkel explained the government's plan to introduce an accelerated asylum procedure to her.

Twitter users were particularly angry that the release ended with the words "everyone applauded one another after 90 minutes of lively discussion".

"Merkel could have shaken off the video. But the PR report from her hacks about it? Probably not," wrote blogger René Walter.

It looks like he's right, as Merkel's failure to comfort Reem accounted for the top three Twitter trends in Germany on Thursday morning.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd