A Palestinian teen threatened with deportation from Germany who burst into tears during a televised debate with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month received a residency permit for “humanitarian reasons,” according to a statement released by the Rostock city hall Friday.
In the encounter in mid-July with the German leader, 14-year-old Reem Sawhil told Merkel in fluent German that she and her family, who arrived in the north German city of Rostock from a Lebanese refugee camp four years ago, faced possible deportation.
Merkel expressed sympathy before defending her government’s asylum policies, saying Germany “couldn’t manage” to shoulder the burden of all those fleeing war and poverty.
Minutes later, Sawhil began to weep and the chancellor stroked her head and tried to comfort her in a way critics said appeared awkward and cold, and which led to a public outcry on social media.
On July 26, Sawhil who had become a minor celebrity in Germany, was interviewed by German weekly Die Welt, and told the magazine that she hoped Israel would cease to exist one day.
“My hope is that one day it [Israel] won’t be there anymore, but only Palestine,” she said, adding that she does not consider Germany to be her home.
When asked what she considered to be Palestine, Sawhil answered “everything.”
“The country should not be called Israel, but Palestine,” she said.
The interviewer asked her if she was aware of the special relationship between Israel and Germany, and the strict laws against anti-Semitism in her adopted home.
“Yes, but there is freedom of speech here, and I am allowed to say that,” Sawhil answered. “My parents tell me that Israel expelled us from Palestine. That’s true, isn’t it?”
Sawhil’s permit will be valid until March 2016, according to Rostock deputy mayor Chris Mueller.
“Reem is an example of successful integration in our city,” he added.
Europe’s deepening migrant crisis and its mounting human cost has sparked sharp divisions within the 28-nation European Union, with Germany leading efforts to get the bloc to accept more refugees while newer members balk at the prospect of compulsory quotas.