There is a time and place to get weirdly maternal, and this is not it.
"It's okay, honey. You have a whole year before we force you out." (via Newsweek)
When it comes to asylum, Germany faces a similar challenge America faces with immigration: A lot of people want to come over, but the country's infrastructure is failing to keep up with the high volume of citizenship-seekers. Just last week, the Associated Press reported that Germany received 179,037 asylum applications, more than double what they received at the same time last year. It's a shitty situation all around and the system definitely needs fixing. Like any daunting political issue, it should be dealt with using optimism and positive thinking, which is unfortunately not how German Chancellor Angela Merkel deals with a young Palestinian refugee's question about her asylum prospects during a public outreach Q&A for high schoolers.
The young girl, whose family has been in Germany for four years and faces the threat of deportation, told Merkel the following:
I want to study. It is really a wish, and a goal I want to obtain. It is really very unpleasant to look on at how others can really enjoy life while oneself cannot enjoy it.
Merkel responded with:
"Yeah." (via BBC/YouTube)
"No." (via BBC/YouTube)
Okay, she didn't say exactly that, but it was close. She told the young girl:
Politics is sometimes hard. You are right in front of me and are really a very nice person, but you also know that in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon there are thousands and thousands, and if we now say, 'you can now all come here and you from Africa can all come here, you can all come,' we cannot manage that either. And so we're in this discrepancy, and the only answer can give is; make sure the decision does not take too long. But some will have to go back. We have so many families where the children going to school, and we have to change that.
She then told the moderator that they are trying to create a system that sends most people back within a year, and like most people whose dreams have been shat on, the young girl started crying. Merkel then went over to comfort her, which just feels weird, since she just pretty much told her that there's a chance she's going to be deported back to a Lebanese refugee camp, one that looks like this:
A Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. (via Getty)
What feels even weirder is the way Merkel described her actions to the moderator:
The stroking techniques has been proven to alleviate deportation-induced stress.
Maybe it's the result of cultural differences or a translation issue, but I don't know if "stroking" is the appropriate follow-up to admitting to someone that your government is failing them. Twitter had a field day about the whole thing, and #merkelstreichelt became a popular, parody-inducing hashtag (streichelt is German for stroke):
You know nothing Jon Snow! #merkelstreichelt pic.twitter.com/K5XLZK6l5h
— Florian Luedtke (@iLuedtke) July 16, 2015
Griechenlandkrise gelöst! #merkelstreichelt pic.twitter.com/dDykcKUP67
— DiesDasAnanas (@Dies_Das_Ananas) July 16, 2015
Part of me wants to believe that Merkel's actions are actually more noble than those of other politicians, who would make an empty promise just for the sake of good press. The girl, a 14-year-old named Reem, even defended Merkel later, saying that she thought her response was "fair enough." Still, I can't help but think there's something so gross about Merkel shutting down this young girl's hopes and then trying to comfort her, as if dealing with Palestinian refugees is a problem completely outside of her control, despite the fact that she's the Chancellor of Germany. That's like a gynecologist telling someone who just got stabbed that they can't help them at all. It's like, "Come on, I know it's not your field, but surely you learned some shit about this in med school?"