The UN high commissioner for refugees has warned that asylum seekers have become a global phenomenon that requires a global response.
Filippo Grandi told the BBC that more nations had to help the “few countries” shouldering the burden and that “simply pushing people away won’t work”.
He said that, last year, fewer than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.
More are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in history.
Mr Grandi was speaking to the BBC during a day of special live coverage examining how an age of unprecedented mobility is shaping our world.
Mr Grandi, who took up the UN post in January this year, said the fact that Syrians were arriving in East Asia and in Caribbean as refugees showed “how global the phenomenon has become and therefore we have to have global responses”.
He said the burden of caring for refugees had so far fallen “on a few countries that host hundreds of thousands of refugees, usually those near wars, near conflicts and a few donors that alone, seven or eight of them, give 80%-90%, of the funding”.
“This has to spread more, has to be shared more, otherwise the imbalances will cause knee-jerk reactions, closures, rejections and in the end we will fail in our responsibility to help refugees.”
He said that resettlement was “a direction in which we need to move more boldly”, given that fewer than 200,000 of 20 million refugees, excluding internally displaced, had been taken in by another country.
“There is an awareness that global displacement, having reached 60 million people, plus all that move for other reasons, economic migrants and so forth, that requires a different kind of investment and therefore it involves everybody,” Mr Grandi said.
He admitted a solution would require “a very long and difficult discussion” but added: “There can’t simply be a reaction whereby states shut down borders and push people away simply because it won’t work.”