A clip of their encounter has been watched by millions of people, sparking concern over Germany’s asylum policy and seeing Ms Merkel condemned as cold-hearted and ridiculed over her attempts at comforting the girl.

“She listened to me and then gave her opinion”.

Pohl said it would have been crueler to make false promises to the girl or evade her question, and noted that until a majority of Germans begin to back far more liberal asylum policies, Merkel s hands were tied.

The incident took place on Wednesday, when Angela Merkel was in Rostock with students of the Paul Friedrich Scheel Support Centre for physically disabled students.

In the video broadcast on public television, the Palestinian girl named Reem told Ms Merkel that her family had been informed they would have to return to a camp in Lebanon.

Ms Merkel tells the teenager she is “an incredibly likeable person”, but Germany cannot accommodate all migrants – “some will have to go home”, and the government can only promise to speed up decisions.

“I know it is a stressful situation for her”, the German leader snapped back, “but I’d still like to caress her because we don’t want to bring you in such a situation [that] you have difficulties”. It was unpleasant that she could not share the enjoyment of life experienced by her peers because of uncertainty over whether she will be able to stay, she said.

It states that minors who have been in Germany for a period of four years have a right to remain, although that does not automatically extend to their loved ones. “We just can’t manage this”, Merkel continued.

#Merkelstreichelt (Merkel strokes) became the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Germany.

The moderator of the discussion intervened to say the young woman was crying more because of her hard situation than over whether she had done a good job in presenting her views.

Merkel told the teenager that while she understood, “politics is sometimes hard”.

With 202,815 asylum seekers and new applicants in 2014, Germany had accepted more than twice the number as any other European Union countries.