The UK should allow up to 25,000 refugees into the UK over the next six months, according to former Home Secretary David Blunkett.
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Mr Blunkett said the responsibility for responding to “a global crisis” should rest on the shoulders of all developed nations including the US.
But he added the UK needs to welcome “very large numbers” if it is “to be taken seriously” as a nation.
Women and children and those fleeing Syria should take priority, he added.
His comments come as David Cameron’s government faces increasing pressure to admit more refugees fleeing conflict sparked by the publication of the harrowing images of three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach in Turkey.
Mr Blunkett said: "This time we must be seen not to wash our hands and not to pretend that, good though it is, investment we are making in the camps in the region is an alternative to overcoming the sheer, blinding misery of women and children who have nowhere else to go, who are destitute.
"I understand entirely people do not want the borders opened and do not want a situation where anything goes. How could I not understand that, having been Home Secretary at a time when we had to take quite drastic measures? But this is on a different scale."
The former Labour MP, who was Home Secretary from 2001 to 2004, said: "With united agreement from the developed world and a united front from Europe, we won't have the pictures we have seen this week, we won't have the handwringing.”
The photos of Aylan Kurdi, he claimed, have “brought this home to people in a way that all the words that we could ever use could never do.”
The figure of 25,000 refugees suggested by Mr Blunkett is a significant increase on the 10,000 put forward by his former Labour colleague and party leadership contender Yvette Cooper earlier in the week.