As Eastern European economies slide deeper into recession, experts are now predicting a new wave of migration to hit the UK and other western EU member states this year.
According to new research, Baltic countries that were hit particularly hard by the crisis are soon to witness a new mass exodus – this time due to soaring unemployment.
Latvian labour economist Mikhail Hazans, who has been studying the migrant flows, claims many of those who are planning to work abroad will be fresh migrants.
The United Kingdon will be one of the main destination countries for them because there is a critical mass of earlier migrants who are already there,” he said.
With the unemployment rate at a staggering 14% and growing, the situation in Latvia is particularly grim.
Irina Lukina and two of her former colleagues from a wood processing plant are planning to spend the summer picking strawberries in Herefordshire.
She hopes her first job will pave the way for long-term employment in the UK to help see her family through the crisis.
Irina’s job paid her around 700 lats (around £880) a month – enough to provide for her two young sons and to take on some consumer credit.
It has now been slashed to a mere 100 lats a month. She weighs this against the £50 per day offered to her on the farm in Herefordshire.
She said: “I have no idea what awaits me in the UK, but I tell you one thing for sure – there is no nothing left for me to do in Latvia.”
The director of JSSINA, the agency that is helping Irina to make the move, admits the demand for unqualified jobs in the UK is growing.
“People come, look at the list of simple farm jobs we offer with scorn and leave. But then they come back a few days later and apply,” a spokesperson said.
Latvia was the fastest growing economy in the EU until last year. However, one year on it is EU’s worst performer.
At the end of last year Latvia had to plead for a bail-out from international creditors. The €7.5bn (£6.6bn) rescue package came but with strings attached.
The state’s choices are stark – to cut this year’s public spending by around 40% or face bankruptcy.
And Latvia is cutting the spending where it hurts most. Salaries for teachers, nurses and civil servants, unemployment benefits and health care provisions are all slated for a cull.
Following years of credit-fuelled growth, few can afford to simply sit out the crisis.
Ainars Gorenko created LAKRA, a support group for credit-takers that lobbies the government to change laws to let people go bankrupt more easily.
He estimates that 20% of all mortgages in the country are overdue and predicts that half of all loan-takers will fail to meet their regular payments by the end of the year.
Their choices are simple – find a job that pays or lose their home while still owing the money to the bank following a slide in the value of properties.
And finding jobs is a difficult task in an economy that is forecast to contract by more than 12% this year.
With their three teenage children, violin teachers Ilona and Vitalijs Medjaniki admit they had never thought about leaving Latvia – until now.
After being told that their salaries would be cut by 42% and their two-month summer break would be without pay, they know that come June, they won’t have the money for the bank.
They took a mortgage on their suburban home three years ago, their credit request readily approved.
But now, feeling betrayed by their government, they are contemplating immigration.
Ilona said: “In Stalin’s times people were deported from this country by force, but now they run themselves because they have no other choice.”