By Humphrey Carter THERE are as many as 3.000 female prostitutes in Palma working in an industry which turns over some 50 million euros per year in the capital. Palma City Council yesterday published the results of an investigation carried out by psychologists and sociologists at the Balearic University into prostitution in the municipality and the increase of “high risk” sexual activity. According to the report there has been a sharp rise in the number of immigrant women working as prostitutes. But at the same time, prostitution has moved off the streets and behind closed doors where an alarming number of women are working as prostitutes against their will, often in debt to human smuggling mafias who have tricked women in coming to the west thinking they would be starting a new life. It is the continual rise in the number of prostitutes which is leading to more competition and more sexual risks being taken at lower prices, but with a high cost of an increasing risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases. Balearic University Professor Lluís Ballester said the situation is a “time bomb.” One of the solutions is for a greater effort to be made by social services and for a much higher level of co-operation between council departments and non government organisations. Jaime Payeras, head of the city council's Social Action department, said that the council is studying the experiences of other cities which have suffered and dealt with the problems of prostitution, such as a service in Madrid which cares for the children of prostitutes when they are at work, an initiative Palma is considering along with others to try and bring the issue out in the open and install some controls, social and medical, over the industry. Of the 2.500 to 3.000 women who work as prostitutes, only 200 work outside Palma and have an annual clientel of between 70.000 and 100.000 customers, residents and tourists, turning over an estimated 50 million euros. The study has also discovered that 12.8 per cent are Spanish women while 52 per cent are from Central or South America, 10 per cent from Africa and 6.4 from Eastern Europe, although it is the latter who are often getting caught up in human smuggling rackets. But, according to Lluís Ballester, there has also been a marked increase in women from the far East and Asia being smuggled into Europe and subsequently forced to work as prostitutes to pay off their travel debt to the mafia.