Travel agency vacancies have been eliminated in the US, after the Department of Justice said it would ban all new travel agencies in the country.
The US Department for Homeland Security said the move was a response to an investigation into the use of private agents to book flights and hotel rooms in the city of Baghdad.
The Justice Department said the actions would apply to all US travel agencies.
The decision comes after a long campaign by Iraqis to protest the use by private travel agents of their own services, which were seen as an abuse of government power and a threat to the nation’s sovereignty.
The move follows months of public outrage over the use in Baghdad of private travel agencies, which used to have official status, and some in Congress had suggested that the companies be banned.
“The government’s determination that travel agencies should be banned is necessary and appropriate in light of the ongoing investigations into the misuse of government funds by these agents,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
“I look forward to continuing to work with our partners in Congress and with the private sector to support our shared goal of protecting Americans from the threat of violence, terrorism, and other threats.”
“In addition, I have made clear to my colleagues that we will continue to work closely with the American public and our private sector partners to ensure that DHS can ensure that the public is protected and the public can be reassured about the security of our nation.”
The move comes as the US moves to rein in the use and growth of private companies and to clamp down on the growth of travel agencies that are used to book hotels, flights and other services for US citizens.
In January, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a report saying that more than 300 private travel agency employees had used government funds for personal travel, and the government had used the services for travel between three US states.
However, it said those agencies had not engaged in any activities that would make them eligible for government contracts.
In April, the Obama administration announced it would stop paying the fees for travel agencies to book hotel rooms and flights, and also the fees to hire private travel drivers to provide drivers to private companies.
The department’s decision to end the fees was a long-awaited step that had been expected.
The move followed months of lobbying by Iraqis who accused the private travel companies of exploiting their power.
But in recent weeks, the department has been under pressure from both Iraqi and US lawmakers to reinstate the fees.
In response, Secretary Johnson said that the government would continue to make the case that private travel providers have no place in the American economy and that it will continue working with private sector businesses to address the issue.
“We will continue with our work to help strengthen our private travel industry,” Johnson said.
“We will also continue to engage with our private industry partners to help address the concerns and concerns of our constituents and to continue to hold them accountable for their actions.”