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Migrant crisis: UNHCR calls on countries to accept refugee quotas -

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DAVID MARK: European leaders are struggling to come up with a coordinated response to the refugee crisis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is urging countries to accept quotas, saying normal immigration measures are no longer working.

But Europe is divided over the issue.

William Spindler is a spokesman for the UNHCR.

He told Europe Correspondent Mary Gearin, that change is possible because Europe has rediscovered its humanity, and that Australia has a role to play.

WILLIAM SPINDLER: People will always find a way to get through. It will just mean that they are taking longer, more dangerous routes, risking their lives. We've seen these horrible images of parents trying to get their children through barbed wire; we have seen these horrible images of men, women and children drowning

But they will still try to come because they are fleeing for their lives, and that's one of the things that are beginning to change; the realisation to this is a refugee crisis and not something that can be dealt with a traditional immigration controlled methods.

So, rather than blaming each other which is what we have now because of different policies and dis-coordinated response.

MARY GEARIN: How do you get a coordinated and coherent response when you've got such different make ups to these countries. You've got very poor countries that are completely struggling under the weight of migration already and you also have countries that are fiercely rejecting any idea of mandatory quotas over which they have no say and they consider a betrayal of democracy?

WILLIAM SPINDLER: We are seeing a shift in public opinion in recent days. We have seen this extraordinary outpouring of sympathy for refugees. Citizens all over Europe or coming forward, helping the refugees, and literally opening their homes to them!

This was unthinkable a few weeks ago.

So we think that public opinion has now changed to a large extent, or maybe a realisation that something needs to be done. Europe has rediscovered its humanity and we are hoping that there will be a breakthrough.

MARY GEARIN: So the UNHCR would like to see quotas imposed on each of these countries and do you think that is now actually possible?

WILLIAM SPINDLER: Well we think that there has to be some sort of compulsory quotas system where each country, according to its capacity, will receive a number of refugees. We are talking about relocating refugees that are already in Europe, sharing them out in a more equal and fair way.

MARY GEARIN: It is an international crisis what are the roles and responsibilities for countries like Australia? Is Australia doing enough?

WILLIAM SPINDLER: This is an international crisis and is a responsibility for every country in the world to try to deal with it. And we would like Europe to play its role, but other countries as well to play an important role.

And Australia as a country has received refugees through resettlement programs; we welcome that. We hope that Australia will continue to play this role and also play its part in finding a solution to this international crisis.

MARY GEARIN: Would you like to see Australia increase its number of refugees it takes in overall? Not just increase the number of Syrians for instance as part of its existing quota?

WILLIAM SPINDLER: We want all countries to play its part and we would like cooperation from all countries in this. The only way to deal with this situation is if everybody plays its role.

At the same time as we deal with the consequences of this conflict in Syria, we should also try to deal with the root cause which is the conflict itself.

Of course we need to help the people who are already displaced but we need to find a solution for that conflict and activate the mechanisms through diplomacy, through politics to find a solution for that conflict.

DAVID MARK: That's William Spindler the UNHCR spokesman speaking to Europe correspondent Mary Gearin, in Geneva.