Germany's Leader Made A Girl Cry

Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images.
Making little girls cry isn't generally a good PR move for a world leader. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn't let optics or the feelings of children stop her from explaining to a young refugee that Europe's largest economy can't help more people like her.

During a televised appearance in a school gym filled with teenagers, a young Palestinian girl named Reem told Merkel that she and her family are facing deportation after coming to Germany from a Lebanese refugee camp four years ago. But, in an extremely awkward moment, Merkel told Reem that the country "can't manage" to let them stay.

"You’re right in front of me now, and you’re an extremely sympathetic person. But you also know in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are thousands and thousands," Merkel said. Reem wasn't convinced by the Chancellor's reasoning, however, and started to cry, which is when Merkel tried to comfort her with a hug. Unfortunately for the girl, Merkel did not offer to let her stay in Germany.

"You were great," Merkel told Reem while stroking the girl's shoulder, according to The Guardian. "I know it’s difficult for you, and you presented extremely well the situation that many others find themselves in."

This year has not been kind to the German leader. Merkel was one of the strongest voices against helping Greece out of a massive financial crisis without imposing punishing economic concessions and an austerity plan. Those negotiations have revived stereotypes of Germans as cold, unfeeling, and cruel; the viral phenomenon of #MerkelStreichelt ("Merkel stroking") isn't likely to help.

Germany has struggled to cope with the huge number of refugees in need of help, and the ranks of desperate asylum seekers has only grown this year. Thousands of people have crossed the Mediterranean from Africa so far in 2015, and hundreds have died, as families flee unrest and violence in their home countries. More than 450,000 people live in Lebanon's refugee camps in dire conditions, with little hope of ever leaving.

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