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Palestinian teen brought to tears by Merkel to stay in Germany

Video of 14-year-old asylum seeker weeping after remarks by German chancellor over family’s looming deportation went viral

Palestinian teen Reem Sawhil talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a televised debate in Rostock, Germany on July 16, 2015. (screenshot: YouTube)
Palestinian teen Reem Sawhil talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a televised debate in Rostock, Germany on July 16, 2015. (screenshot: YouTube)

BERLIN — A teenage Palestinian asylum seeker, who burst into tears in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel during a televised debate, will be allowed to stay in Germany, officials said Friday.

Merkel’s encounter with teenager Reem Sawhil — who speaks perfect German — has gone viral. The debate entitled “Good Life in Germany” took place in the northern city of Rostock.

“I don’t know the personal situation of this young girl but she speaks fluent German and has visibly lived here for a long time,” Integration Minister Aydan Ozoguz said, according to the website of Spiegel weekly.

“This is exactly why we changed the law so that well integrated youths” can have a new residency permit through a new immigration law that came into force in August, Ozoguz said.

During the discussion, Reem told Merkel in perfect German that she and her family, who arrived in Rostock from a Lebanese refugee camp four years ago, faced deportation.

“I have goals like anyone else. I want to study like them … it’s very unpleasant to see how others can enjoy life, and I can’t myself,” she said.

The mayor of Rostock’s spokesman told the daily Tagesspiegel that he had no intention of sending Reem and her family back.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attempts to comfort a young Palestinian refugee facing deportation during a televised debate on the country's asylum polities.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attempts to comfort a young Palestinian refugee facing deportation during a televised debate on the country’s asylum polities.

Merkel had responded to Reem by saying she understood, but that “politics is sometimes hard”.

“You’re right in front of me now and you’re an extremely nice person. But you also know in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are thousands and thousands and if we were to say you can all come … we just can’t manage it,” Merkel had said.

Some critics said the incident showed Merkel’s insensitivity while others hailed her for not lying to the teenager.

Reem later defended the chancellor’s comments, telling Germany’s ARD broadcaster that Merkel “listened to me, and she also told me what she thinks about it, and I think that’s OK.”

Germany took in 200,000 asylum seekers last year and expects as many as 450,000 this year.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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