Dominican authorities have repatriated nearly 500 Haitians who sought refuge at a church to avoid deportation.

Dominican border police chief Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase says authorities negotiated for several hours with a Roman Catholic priest before he allowed them to enter the church and detain the migrants.

The chief says most of the migrants were trying to return to their jobs in the Dominican Republic after spending the holidays in Haiti. They were deported Tuesday.

An estimated 1 million people of Haitian descent live in the Dominican Republic. Many fled poverty to work in sugar fields and construction.