German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a news conference at the end of a euro zone leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2015. Euro zone leaders agreed on a road map to a possible third bailout for near-bankrupt Greece, but Athens must enact key reforms this week before they will start talks on a financial rescue to keep it in the European currency area. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a teenage refugee cry with her blunt answer on Wednesday. The German leader tried to comfort the Palestinian girl but told her the country cannot do anything more for asylum seekers like her.

In a Q&A segment during a live talk show titled “Good Life in Germany,” Merkel met with a group of 14- to 17-year-olds in a school gymnasium in Rostock. One of them was a Palestinian girl who arrived in the country with her family from a Lebanese refugee camp four years ago. Identified by the Guardian as Reem, the girl asked the chancellor why her family is facing deportation.

“I have goals like anyone else. I want to study like them,” Reem asked Merkel, explaining her father cannot find work in the country because he does not have a permanent residence permit. “It’s very unpleasant to see how others can enjoy life, and I can’t myself.”

Merkel was sympathetic but firm on executing her policies, telling the teen, “Sometimes politics is hard.” She explained not every migrant can stay in Germany because the country simply can’t accept and manage the “thousands and thousands” of Palestinians wishing to take refuge there.

She mentioned Reem and her family might benefit from the procedures Germany is proposing for asylum seekers, but for now, some people would have to go back. Merkel’s gentle but frank answer prompted the girl to burst into tears. The chancellor stopped speaking and walked up to Reem to stroke her shoulder, attempting to comfort her.

The Q&A video has since gone viral with the hashtag #MerkelStreichelt (translated to “Merkel strokes”). Some social media users criticise the chancellor for her alleged hard-hearted response, with others accusing Merkel of failing “as a human.”

As Merkel said, Reem’s plight is unfortunately not unique. She is just one of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers coming from Syria, Africa and some parts of the Middle East.

With 202,815 asylum seekers and new applicants in 2014, Germany had accepted more than twice the number as any other European Union countries. The current figure of refugees and asylum seekers is estimated at around 450,000 for this year. With the country’s population already around 80 million, Germany is struggling to accommodate everyone on board.

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