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In Jordan, Refugee Agency Races To Process Syrians For U.S. Travel


Syrian refugee families were back at a Jordanian airport overnight, waiting for flights to the United States. They had gotten approved to come to the U.S. and were scheduled to fly last week until President Trump issued an order stopping the admission of refugees. Since a court suspended that order, refugee agencies have started putting people back on planes. NPR's Jane Arraf was at the airport in Jordan and has this report.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: It's close to midnight at Amman's international airport. You can spot the refugees being resettled by their luggage carts piled high with bags and blue and white stickers from the International Organization for Migration. Farida Mahmoud, a widow from southern Syria, is the first to arrive for the flights that will eventually get her and her children to New York and then on to Connecticut. Like the other refugees here tonight, Mahmoud's travel last week was canceled after President Trump issued his order.

FARIDA MAHMOUD: (Through interpreter) Today, they told us you have to travel tonight, so we came here. And we hope, God willing, to be able to settle and live well in America because we hear that America is a country of freedom and democracy.

ARRAF: She switches from her eloquent Arabic and struggles to introduce her four children in the English that she's still learning.

MAHMOUD: Two girl, two are boy, and my husband died.

ARRAF: Her husband was killed near the start of the Syrian war that has produced 5 million refugees. There are more than 100 other Syrian refugees cleared for U.S. resettlement, scheduled to leave on three flights from here today. Rafiq al-Saleh and his wife, Ghada Dino (ph), have arrived five hours ahead of their flight with three young children.


ARRAF: The mother tries to calm her 13-month-old daughter, Elaf, and keep track of six-year-old Yazan and four-year-old Media. After a couple of hours of waiting, they line up with the other refugees for retina scans and final documents. It will be more than 24 hours before the family lands in New York and then goes on to Syracuse. But right now, Salah is thinking of his parents in Syria. They don't have a phone, and they don't know he's flying tonight. He worries he won't see them again.

RAFIQ AL-SALEH: (Through interpreter) The plan was they would get to Turkey eventually, and we would be able to meet again, but Turkey has become very difficult.

ARRAF: But everyone leaving here tonight has made it through so much by the time they get this far, all the uncertainty is just a small hurdle.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Unintelligible).

ARRAF: Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman, Jordan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.