Reuters International

Migrants sit in their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship Borsini (unseen) off the coast of Sicily, Italy, in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Marina Militare released July 19, 2016. Marina Militare/Handout via REUTERS

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ROME (Reuters) - More than 2,500 migrants were plucked from overcrowded boats off the coast of Libya on Tuesday and one dead body was recovered, Italy's coast guard said, as people smugglers operating in Libya took advantage of calm seas and warm weather.

A coast guard spokesman said the smugglers had sent at least 26 boats toward Italy, the latest in a tide of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Three Italian navy ships participated in the rescues, picking up more than 1,000 of those brought to safety so far, a statement said. British and Spanish ships participating in the European Union's anti-people smuggling mission, Sophia, also conducted rescues.

The charity Doctors Without Borders said its ship, the Argos, had rescued migrants from five boats.

A deal with Turkey and border closures have helped the EU to stem the flow of migrants from the Middle East and Asia coming through Turkey and Greece. But Italy has received about the same number of migrants setting off from North Africa this year as during the same period of 2015.

As of Monday, 79,861 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea, compared with 83,119 during the same period of last year, while the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey was down 95 percent.

Almost 3,000 boat migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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