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As thousands of government-sponsored Syrian refugees hang in the balance for final confirmation of their resettlement in Canada, hope and anxiety intensify. For some such as Firas, a gay man who faces intolerance in Jordan, the state of limbo poses real concern, reports Mark MacKinnon

Firas stares at his phone day and night, waiting for it to deliver him from the prison of living both as a Syrian refugee and as a gay man in deeply conservative Jordan. "This is my boyfriend now," he says of his iPhone 4 with a laugh that his anxiety takes to a higher pitch. "I sleep with it every night."

The call Firas is awaiting is one that will tell him where and when to show up for the medical tests that he has been told are the final hurdle between him and a new life in Canada – a place where he hopes can finally live happily after years of discrimination and violence in Syria and Jordan.

Until a few days ago, Firas (who requested that his last name be withheld while he is still living in Jordan) felt that everything was going smoothly and that his departure to Canada was getting close.

On Nov. 28, his name was put on a short list for resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which is helping Canada select those most in need of help and protection. On Dec. 5, he was called for a security interview with Canadian officials in Amman, a test he was told he had passed with flying colours. "At the end of the interview, I asked, 'What do you think?' She [the interviewer] said, 'Don't worry, you are accepted.' "

But since then, silence. On Tuesday, Firas got a phone call informing him that his appointments for an X-ray at an Amman hospital and some final blood work at the centre Canadian officials are working out of near Jordan's Marka airport had been postponed indefinitely.

He has no idea when those appointments will happen now, let alone when he might be headed to Canada. He is starting to doubt that his dream is going to come true after all. His landlord – after hearing complaints from neighbours that they didn't want a gay man living in their building – has already warned Firas that he and his 18-year-old brother, Mazen, (who is also on track for resettlement to Canada) need to leave their apartment at the end of the month.

Such delays raise questions not only for individual refugees, but for the Liberal government's initial target of bringing 10,000 Syrians to Canada by the end of December. While the first planeload carrying 163 refugees arrived on Thursday in Toronto, and another is expected to land on Saturday in Montreal, sources in Jordan say daily flights aren't expected to begin for five or 10 days, meaning that several planeloads a day will be needed during the second half of the month.

With the exception of the initial two military flights from the Beirut airport, all refugees flying to Canada from Lebanon and Jordan are expected to pass through Jordan's Marka airport. Canada also expects to take refugees from Turkey, although the process is moving even more slowly there because of security concerns in the border areas near Syria, as well as the fact that it's the Turkish government, rather than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, that runs refugee camps in the country.

Firas has suffered several beatings since he arrived in Jordan three years ago and until recently felt his resettlement to Canada was going smoothly. But earlier in the week, a phone call put his departure on hold and he’s starting to doubt his dream of a new life will ever come true.

Firas has suffered several beatings since he arrived in Jordan three years ago and until recently felt his resettlement to Canada was going smoothly. But earlier in the week, a phone call put his departure on hold and he’s starting to doubt his dream of a new life will ever come true.

Annie Sakkab/for The Globe and Mail

Firas rarely goes outside in Amman any more, after a series of violent assaults earlier this year, including an attack by four men who beat him "because of the way I walk" and an incident that saw a car swerve to hit him as he stood on the sidewalk. The 30-year-old – who worked as an accountant in relatively cosmopolitan Damascus before the war – says he was heckled by children all the way home from his last visit to the mosque near his temporary home in a working-class neighbourhood of eastern Amman.

"If I don't go to Canada by the end of the month, what will happen to me? It's very difficult to find a new apartment in the middle of winter, and I don't have any money for rent," Firas said. "It's only been a few days [since his appointments were cancelled], but you have to understand that every hour is like a year for me right now."

It's not only Firas and Mazen who feel caught in limbo between their lives in Jordan and the new ones they hope lie ahead in Canada. Many of those who believed that they were on track for a move to Canada by the end of the month are starting to wonder if and when it will happen.

Thursday's military transport from Beirut to Toronto carried mostly privately sponsored refugees, those who were already on track for a move to Canada before the Liberal government unveiled its plan to resettle 25,000 Syrians from the refugee population of four million people scattered around Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

However, the pipeline for government-picked refugees seems to be moving more slowly than was originally laid out, leaving many of the refugees that The Globe and Mail has met over the past few weeks in the dark about where their cases stand. As mid-December approaches – with its decisions about rent and school payments for January – they're desperate to know if they should start uprooting the lives they have in Jordan.

"We'd need at least 20 days to one month to prepare before we could leave,' says Ali Mansour Nazal, a 39-year-old whose family of four – like Firas and his brother – are waiting for a phone call that will tell them when and where they can have their final medical tests. "We have a lot of people to say goodbye to. We spent three years establishing ourselves here. Our things are not worth a lot, but we still have to sell them."

“If I don’t go to Canada by the end of the month, what will happen to me? It’s very difficult to find a new apartment in the middle of winter, and I don’t have any money for rent,” Firas said.

Annie Sakkab/for The Globe and Mail

Ali and his wife, Khitam, have quarrelled over whether a move to Canada will be good for their family. Now that they've finally decided that they want to go, they're left wondering why the process has suddenly slowed.

"I saw on the news that the first airplane went to Canada, and that people were accepting them. That shows us it's a great country," says Ahmed Lakash, the 48-year-old owner of a falafel restaurant in Jordan's sprawling Zaatari refugee camp for Syrian refugees.

But Mr. Lakash's family of six is also among those in limbo. Two weeks ago, he received a text message from the UNHCR informing him that he might qualify for resettlement to Canada, and advising him that he would soon receive a phone call inviting him for a preliminary interview.

(The UNHCR interview is the first step in the process. If families have all their legal affairs in order, their names are passed to the Canadian government and the International Organization for Migration, which carry out the security and health screening near Marka airport.)

While some refugees contacted by the UNHCR have hesitated when asked about moving to Canada – a place many see as too far away and too culturally different to start new lives in – Mr. Lakash and his family are anxious to move. His youngest son, Amran, lost a kidney as a toddler, making him susceptible to long bouts of illness. Mr. Lakash hopes that Amran will get better medical care in Canada than Zaatari.

But that phone call from UNHCR still hasn't come, meaning that his case remains well down the resettlement list. "I'm starting to lose a little bit of hope," Ali says. "Maybe they will hand-pick others, and we will not go."

While some of those going through the selection process for resettlement say they want at least a few weeks' notice before they're put on a plane to Canada, Mr. Lakash says there's little in Zaatari he would take with him. He has already arranged for his business partner to continue running his falafel shop. "We have nothing to get ready. We don't need to do anything but pack our luggage."

Firas says he and his brother are also ready to go on almost a moment's notice. They have a pair of suitcases picked out – a small blue one for Firas and a large grey one for Mazen, an aspiring artist hoping to fit in at least one of his paintings – that lean against the bedroom wall. All that remains to be done is to cram in a few clothes and then head to the airport whenever they're told it's their turn to fly.

"They told us we can take 20 kilograms [of stuff] each," says Firas, looking at the suitcases. "I don't think I'll need all of it. There's not very much I want to bring with me from this country."