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    RUSSIAN ASYLUM APPLICANTS LED WORLD LAST YEAR

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    GENEVA, March 1 (RIA Novosti's Ekaterina Andrianova) - Russia led the world, last year, for the number of persons seeking asylum abroad, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says in a paper made public today.

    The number of Russian applications reduced by 14 per cent, as against the year before-33,196 for 2003 and 30,139 in 2004.

    Chechens made a majority of Russian nationals applying for asylum in developed countries. A greater part of 2004 Russian applications came to Poland-7,180, Austria-6,185, France-2,919, and Germany-2,767.

    Serbia-Montenegro comes next with 22,292 applications, mainly from Kosovo. China comes third, 19,696. Turkey follows with 16,228, and India, 11,923.

    Iraqi and Afghan refugees made a majority, 2001-02. Their number is steadily shrinking-by 61 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, for last year.

    Last year's total number of persons seeking asylum in the 38 best-developed industrial countries was the smallest over the preceding 16 years-a 22 per cent shrinkage to 368,000.

    The number of applications to European Union countries shrank by 19 per cent, 2004, and to North America by 26 per cent, says the UNHCR paper.

    France received the greatest number of applications for 2004-61,600. The USA came next, 52,400, the UK following with 40,200. Germany ranked fourth, 35,600. Canada brought the Top Five rear, with 25,500 applications.

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