Border force officials removed Tamils Nadesalingam, Priya and their two Australian-born daughters from Biloela 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.
Mr Hillier said the family feared Nadesalingam would be persecuted if he returned to Sri Lanka, because of his history with the militant organisation the Tamil Tigers.
The removal of the family from the small Queensland town shocked the community so much so they decided to take action to bring them back.
Biloela residents held a vigil at 5.30pm on Wednesday, while a petition to return them to their home has reached almost 60,000 signatures.
Angela Fredericks, who created the petition, said she was upset to hear the family had been “handcuffed like criminals”.
“I am deeply distressed by the manner in which these four beautiful souls are being treated,” she said.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said the family’s case has been assessed over many years.
“They have consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)