A Question of Humanity

refugees waiting with luggage in Passau in july 15_dpa_distorted
A group of refugees who wait in the German town of Passau for their first registration.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany can and should be a moral role model in finding humane solutions to the current refugee crisis, says Handelsblatt’s deputy editor in chief.

  • Facts


    • The number of refugees worldwide has climbed to more than 50 million, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Western Europe in recent years.
    • Reem Sahwil was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and has cerebral palsy, in addition to other health problems. In 2010, she applied for a medical visa for treatment in Germany.
    • Germany has taken in more than a third of asylum seekers coming to the European Union so far this year.
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Immigration policy now has a face – a pretty one even.  That can only help as the hyperventilating media turn their attention to Europe’s most pressing issue.

Last week, 14-year-old Palestinian Reem Sahwil became a symbol of the immigration debate when she discussed her dreams and objectives in her new home of Germany with the country’s chancellor.

Angela Merkel – in her dispassionate, chancellor-like demeanor that is so praised elsewhere – repeatedly pointed out to the teenager that Germany cannot accommodate all asylum seekers.  When the girl started to cry, Ms. Merkel tried, awkwardly, to comfort her – and outrage exploded on the Internet about the supposedly hardhearted head of government.

The criticism is both cheap and inaccurate, because it diverts our attention from the real problem. It really isn’t about the chancellor’s lack of empathy.  It’s not even about the nicely integrated Reem, who probably needn’t worry about being deported ever since her public tears.

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