Germany grants residency to crying refugee girl's family

A 14-year-old Palestinian refugee who made headlines after crying during a televised meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel has been granted a residency permit, mass circulation newspaper Bild reported Thursday.

Reem Sahlwil - who shot to fame when she confronted Merkel about her family's possible deportation back to Lebanon - will be allowed to remain in Germany until October 2017, the newspaper reported, citing the immigration office in the city of Rostock.

Merkel faced controversy after a meeting with schoolchildren during which she told Reem that "politics is sometimes hard" and that Germany wouldn't be able to manage an unchecked influx of Palestinian refugees.

The chancellor's subsequent attempt to console Reem when the girl started to cry - described by critics as "heartless" - caused a Twitter storm, with the hashtag #merkelstreichelt, or "Merkel strokes," becoming a number one trending topic in Germany.

Immigration is a contentious topic in Germany, where an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea has placed a strain on public services.

Over 1 million people are expected to apply for asylum in the country this year.

Merkel's decision to suspend the so-called Dublin accord and to do away with all effective vetting of asylum applications from Syria has been criticized in light of growing anti-immigrant sentiment among Germans and the recent popularity of street protests against the perceived "Islamization" of the country.

Last update: Thu, 24/12/2015 - 13:48

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