Governments must shoulder responsibility for protecting refugees instead of adopting inhumane and unrealistic border restrictions, UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said Monday.

"To keep building higher walls against the flight of these desperate people is an act of cruelty and a delusion," he said at the start of the UN Human Rights Council's spring session in Geneva that was attended by foreign ministers and diplomats.

Zeid, the UN high commissioner for human rights, made his appeal as a series of restrictive measures along the main European migration route in the Balkans has left 25,000 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece.

Increasingly harsher migration policies will effectively give refugees no choice but to remain in overstretched countries near conflict zones, he added.

Countries neighbouring Syria have been strained by 4.7 million people who have fled the Syrian war, with about 1 million reaching Europe last year.

He pointed out that in the past countries have benefited from permanently resettling and integrating foreigners, such as those fleeing from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and wars in the former Yugoslavia.

While Zeid stressed the need to help people fleeing conflict zones such as Syria, Western ministers at the UN rights council demanded that those responsible for Syrian war crimes be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"There will be no peace without truth and justice," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

The UN Security Council should finally take a decision to refer violations in Syria to The Hague, his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders demanded.

"When mass atrocities are taking place, the world must not accept paralysis," Koenders said, in a reference to the reluctance of Security Council veto power Russia to allow an international trial against the Syrian regime.

Although the Syrian war and refugee crisis dominated Monday's debate in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council is also set to discuss a range of other crises and human rights hotspots during its four-week session.

The Council's agenda includes countries such as North Korea and Iran, as well as the political violence in Burundi and its worrying ethnic undertones.

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