A senior official of the European Union’s border-monitoring agency Frontex yesterday said the organization’s efforts to curb a wave of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the bloc through Greece would be much more effective if Turkey were to cooperate. Addressing reporters in Athens during an official visit, Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias Fernandez was careful not to condemn Turkey, noting that the role of his organization is to help EU member states monitor their borders, not to apply pressure on transit countries, but he stressed that Turkey’s cooperation «would be very welcome.» Meanwhile, fresh Frontex statistics revealed a 47 percent increase in detentions of illegal immigrants in the Aegean in the first six months of this year, with 14,000 migrants detained on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Patmos as compared to 9,500 in the same period of 2008. Statistics for illegal arrivals to Italy and Spain however show a decrease of around 60 percent. Fernandez attributed this dramatic drop partly to the enforcement of repatriation pacts drawn up between Italy and Libya and between Spain and Senegal and to intensified Frontex patrols around the borders of these EU states. Similar patrols along Greece’s land borders have been effective, Fernandez said, stressing that the islands of the Aegean remained a problem area. The Frontex official said this was partly because of the porous nature of the sea border but also partly because of Turkey’s refusal to honor a bilateral repatriation pact. Questioned about reports regarding Frontex aircraft in the eastern Aegean receiving warning signals from Turkish radar while conducting patrols, Fernandez stressed that the interception had been unjustified as the organization’s aircraft had not entered Turkish air space. He added that Frontex has invited Turkey to participate in patrols of the Aegean but has never received a positive answer. Of 11,309 appeals lodged by Greece this year for the return of migrants to Turkey, only 108 were approved, Frontex statistics show. In a related development yesterday the New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the new Greek government to end «abusive» conditions in migrant reception centers at the country’s land and sea borders.