If before people living by the border with Russia engaged in contraband, smuggling cigarettes and alcohol from where they cost very little, now they are busy helping illegal immigrants cross Latvia's border.
24-year-old Aigars is also engaged in such activities. He says that he chose such a risky business field as there's widespread unemployment in Latgale. He didn't reveal his employer, but said that many who live around there make money that way.
"The chain [of trafficking] is very large," he said. "My job is just going to the border and taking them from there to a safe spot where a car can pick them up," said Aigars.
The money he receives for these services starts at €300. It depends on the budget of those who made the order. He has received from €500 to €1000 for each group that he has lead to its destination.
"It's simple, really - we start at 00:00 when it's dark, and everyone takes his place [..] by 4 o'clock they [the immigrants] are in the car already," said Aigars.
He helps others cross the border illegally, even though it's punishable by law. However, his employer makes sure that his people are as informed about what is happening on the border as possible.
Aigars has been detained twice, and now he's under house arrest so he has to be at his place of residence from 23 PM to 6 AM. Help in illegally crossing the border may result in an imprisonment of up to two years.
He said he knows many people who help illegal immigrants cross the border.
"It's a problem that people aren't fully informed [about the gravity of the crime], and the lawmaker is helpless against these people," said the chairman of the Viļaka municipality Sergejs Maksimovs.
The state has announced plans of reinforcing the eastern border, including building a fence on the border with Russia on some parts. The situation is expected to be alleviated within the next four years.
Meanwhile, the State order Guard chief Normunds Garbars has estimated that around 10-15 illegal immigrants are held on Latvian borders every week. He was confident that most illegal immigrant groups are detected and arrested, but at the same time, it is believed that a couple of groups might have managed to enter Latvia unnoticed.
In other words, no one really knows how many illegal immigrants actually do manage to get into Latvia, except perhaps the mysterious 'employers' of Aigars and others like him.