The UN high commissioner for refugees has warned that asylum seekers have become a global phenomenon that requires a global response.
Filippo Grandi told reporters more nations had to help the “few host countries” shouldering the burden.
He said that, last year, less than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.
More people are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in recorded 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.
BBC News World On The Move is a day of coverage dedicated to migration, and the effect it is having on our world.
A range of speakers, including the UNHCR’s special envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt, and former British secret intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove, will set out the most important new ideas shaping our thinking on economic development, security and humanitarian assistance.
You can follow the discussion and reaction to it, with live online coverage on the BBC News website.
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 less than 200,000 of 20 million refugees, excluding internally displaced, had been taken 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.”
Save the Children is calling for greater international commitment to ensure child refugees remain in school.
The charity’s new report, A New Deal for Refugees, says only one in four refugee children is now enrolled in secondary school.
It is calling on governments and aid agencies to adopt a new policy framework that will ensure no refugee child remains out of school for more than a month.
It is an ambitious target but there is growing concern that this migration crisis is producing a lost generation of children which means conditions for even greater insecurity and poverty.
On Monday the Special Envoy for the UN Refugee Agency, Angelina Jolie-Pitt, will call for stronger multilateral action to respond to this migration, which she describes as the challenge of our century.
She will say there is now a “risk of a race to the bottom, with countries competing to be the toughest… despite their international responsibilities”.
The number of people seeking asylum in the European Union alone in 2015 reached 1,255,600 – more than double that of the previous year.
Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans topped the list of applicants, with more than a third going to Germany, Eurostat says.