German authorities confirmed Saturday that Reem, a 10-year-old Palestinian refugee, will stay in the country with her family after her televised moment with Chancellor Angela Merkel went viral on social media.
Merkel found herself in a tough situation Thursday when she was confronted by Reem who burst into tears on a German TV show. The show titled “Good life in Germany” attempted to tackle the thorny issue of refugees and immigration in Germany.
Reem told Merkel how she and her family had arrived in Germany from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon four years earlier, and of how she dreamed of being able to study and enjoy life.
Merkel responded to Reem's emotional plea by saying that, “politics is sometimes hard. 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 and if we were to say you can all come - we just can’t manage it.”
The young girl immediately began sobbing and a slightly shaken Merkel responded by walking over to Reem and rubbing her shoulder in an attempt to console her. “You were great - I know it’s difficult for you and you presented extremely well the situation that many others find themselves in," she said.
When challenged by the show's host, Merkel responded saying, "I know it's a difficult situation, but I still want to give her a pat."
But Merkel's blunt words about swiftly deporting those whose asylum applications are denied drew harsh criticism.
"The mistakes in the government's refugee policies can't be patted away," tweeted Katrin Goering-Eckardt of the opposition Green party.
Others said Merkel had reacted compassionately and it was her job to explain government policy on asylum.
Germany has seen a sharp rise in refugee numbers in recent years. Figures released this week showed that 179,037 asylum applications were filed in the first six months of 2015, more than twice as many as the same period last year.
Merkel's office said the chancellor didn't speak to the girl, after the event.
AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report.