The residents of a small Queensland town have banded together to bring an asylum seeker family back home.
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition to return Tamils Nadesalingam, Priya and their two Australian-born daughters to Biloela.
Border force officials removed them last week and put them in a Melbourne detention centre.
Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Ben Hillier said they were handcuffed and taken in separate vans to Melbourne Airport on Tuesday, flown to Perth and placed on a flight to Sri Lanka.
But a last-minute legal intervention resulted in them being removed from the plane before it took off.
It’s understood the couple came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, following Sri Lanka’s civil war.
They settled in Biloela on a bridging visa, which has since expired.
Biloela resident Angela Fredericks started the petition, which calls on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to let the family return to the town.
The community also held a vigil for the family on Wednesday night. A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said the family’s case had been assessed over many years.
“They have consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations,” he said.