FUTURE politicians will be forced to formally apologise for Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, a Tasmanian pro- refugee rally was told.
More than 250 people rallied on the lawns of Parliament House in Hobart yesterday to call on Australia's next prime minister to adopt a more humanitarian approach to asylum seekers.
The rally, organised by Denison independent MHR Andrew Wilkie and backed by the Greens, called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to scrap offshore processing and abolish mandatory detention, particularly of children.
As of last Friday night, there were 5904 asylum seekers in Australian detention centres, including 252 unaccompanied minors at Pontville.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Kerr compared the treatment of asylum seekers with the stolen generation.
"What is happening today is something that our children are going to hear our politicians stand up and apologise for in Parliament," Ms Kerr said.
"But why wait 30 or 40 years?"
Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Darren Carr said detention centres were "factories" for mental health problems.
Mr Wilkie said the rally would send a message to Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott that their asylum seeker policies were not acceptable.
"The leaders of both those parties would prefer to cater to the xenophobia and even racism that exists in some areas of our community around these issues," he said.