German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s image appeared to take a hit this week as she faced accusations of making a young Palestinian refugee cry by telling her Germany can’t let everybody stay, an encounter that came as Merkel was being blamed for strong-arming Greece into accepting more austerity.
As the girl burst into tears Merkel walks over to comfort her, saying she wants to “give her a pat”.
“I also have dreams like anyone else”.
The chancellor, who doesn’t exactly have a reputation for warmth or empathy, is being mocked by critics on Twitter under the hashtag #merkelstreichelt, or “Merkel strokes”.
Reem and her family arrived in Rostock, Germany four years ago from a Lebanese refugee camp. “So when you are standing in front of me – and you’re a very likable girl – but you know in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, there are thousands and thousands”.
When Reem began to break down in tears, the Channcellor began to stroke her hair and say “You did a great job”. “I understand”, asserted Merkel.
In an interview with DW’s Arabic service, Atif Sahwil (seen left with daughter Reem in above photo) praised Merkel for her openness and voiced understanding for her position as the leader of Germany.
“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.
She added that Germany would be unable to shoulder the burden of all the people fleeing war and poverty who would like to move to Europe’s top economy seeking a better life.
But Felix Seibert-Daiker, who moderated the discussion, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung the chancellor had reacted well.
Reflecting mounting resentment among Germans, the number of attacks on refugees is rising.
“Of course, we all would have liked Merkel to take Reem in her arms and say, ‘You can stay, ‘ but that is not the situation”, he said, according to Reuters.
Germany received a record of 202,834 asylum applications previous year – an increase of nearly 60 percent compared with 2013.
The same report by the Guardian stated that Germany has had so much trouble finding space to accommodate refugees that the government has had to convert everything from soldier’s barracks to school gymnasiums in order to house them.