continued to offer free food, she quickly ran through her
meager savings, most of which she’d already sent to her
family in Nepal. “I had nothing left,” she said. “Even
though the food was terrible, I couldn’t even go to the
grocery store to buy the smallest thing.” In April, unable to
wait any longer without pay and fearing for her safety, she
submitted her resignation. The company denied her
request. As the global lockdown tightened, Gurung felt
trapped—under the terms of her Transguard contract, the
company retained possession of her passport. “There was
nothing I could do. They kept telling me, just wait, just
wait.” (Transguard did not respond to a request for

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The Great Pumpkin


urung was far from alone. In the Arabian Gulf, a region
already defined by economic extremes, the Covid-19

pandemic has amplified systemic discrimination against
migrant workers to life-or-death proportions. While the
governments of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
and the UAE scrambled to respond to the coronavirus,
millions of migrant workers found themselves abruptly
deprived of income, and in many cases trapped in crowded
accommodations with little access to health care or even


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